I am highly allergic to Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). As a youngster, I never got a Poison Ivy rash, though I loved to romp in the unending woods directly behind my house. Vines to swing over the creek, forts my friends and I were out there constantly. In 1985 I had a wakeup call, with an extremely painful rash on my arm. My luck had run out. A trip to the doctor’s office got me temporary relief with steroids. I have a quilt to show for the time I was on those steroids and bouncing off the walls. I resorted to creating a quilt to help my addled brain. I quickly learned to avoid at all costs the beautiful plant.
Yes, I think Poison Ivy is quite a beautiful plant. Just look at its scarlet leaves in the first photograph. This is the scarlet of spring, with leaves that are often very shiny, whether scarlet in spring, or green in summer. As spring turns to summer, the plant puts out flowers. Large clusters of soft, pale green, with brilliant school bus yellow centers.
More Color In Autumn
As trees are putting on their autumnal show, Poison Ivy whether in its vine form, climbing way up into trees, or trailing along the ground, or taking on the form of a small bush, puts on its own show with bright color. Either sunshine yellow, crimson red, or pumpkin orange.
The vines, creeping up tall trees, only know sky as the limit. They climb as high as a tree will grow, with their thread-like hairs. The vines make me think of sculptures, wrapped up and around lovely textured bark. Those thread-like hairs of the Poison Ivy vine, can sometimes be found in the nests of cardinals and goldfinches. A helpful building material.
As the autumn leaves fall, they leave behind berries. Off white berries, speckled with a bit of bitter chocolate brown. These berries attract many birds. Bluebirds, crows, turkeys and all manner of woodpeckers.
The wonderful winter of 2009–10 which covered the ground here on my mountain with 72 inches of snow, created a Poison Ivy fruit cafeteria of berries for a remarkable number of woodpeckers. Many pileateds, and yellow-shafted flickers descended upon a large oak tree covered with Poison Ivy in front of my cabin. They returned day after day, until the many vines were stripped of their berries. That winter gave me new respect for what Poison Ivy can do for birds in my area.