Saturday, July 9, 2016

...poisonous wild plants and precautions...

"None can have a healthy love for flowers
unless he loves the wild ones."
~ Forbes Watson

This is the time of year when many of us leave the poisons of our own gardens and head out into the wild, unmanaged land of old cemeteries. There is no telling what you'll find. We may all delight in seeing a black widow spider but I certainly do not want her crawling up my shirt collar ;) I feel a similar way about poisonous plants since they can be quite beautiful but it is best to keep a safe distance and protect oneself. The only poisonous plants I want to hold are those in art form such as this lovely one from the Evil Supply Company.

Of course in Virginia, our poisonous plants are more likely going to leave a terribly rash than kill you outright but who wants their skin being eaten away by toxins? Not this girl! In locations where these plants may be present, it is best to wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts, gloves, and enclosed shoes.

Found in every state in the continental US except California, poison ivy and poison oak are becoming larger and stronger which may be a result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as an effect of global warming.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, 70 to 85 percent of people exposed to urushiol oil, the substance that is to blame for the itchy rash that develops on one’s skin, in poison ivy and its cousins will experience an allergic reaction. While the oil starts to penetrate the skin immediately, you might not notice an allergic rash for up to 24 hours. Unlike other allergies that people may outgrow, sensitivity to this oil gets worse with each additional exposure.

Many varieties of poison ivy and poison oak have branches with three leaves. Yet, the popular phrase, "leaves of three, let them be" isn't foolproof since the leaves can grow in larger clusters. Poison sumac may have clusters of 7 to 13 leaves and have leaves with black spots that look like paint splatters. This is caused by the oil leaking out and becoming oxidized in the air. This turns it black.

Don't try to remove or burn them because the oil can cause lung irritation if inhaled. It’s best to wear protective clothing when near possible growth. There is a lotion called IvyBlock that may help. Don’t forget to wash clothes, shoes,  and gardening tools since the oil can remain active on surfaces and cause allergic reactions for years.
In the Northeast, there is a rarer and dangerous poisonous plant called wild parsnip or poison parsnip, which can cause rashes that leave scarring and blindness. Large patches of poison parsnip can be found in road ditches and fields. When poison parsnip is touched, the sap in combination with the sun breaks down skin cells aka eats away your skin. 

Finally, in the news this morning is the toxic plant called giant hogweed, named "giant" since it can grow over 14 feet long. The sap contains a toxin that, like poison parsnip, causes skin reactions that are sensitive to sunlight. A blister forms within two days and can cause scarring that lasts from a few months to several years. The sap can cause blindness if gets into the eye. In the picture (right), this plant would tower above me and potentially could drop sap down on me and my skin

In the end, if you make contact with the sap of a poisonous plant, you should wash your hands and the infected area immediately with soap and warm water

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