Plant identification

Pulling up vines in the spring, when they do not yet have leaves, can provide some minor amusement over the days to come.

We had spent hours pulling English ivy and grape vine out of the garden along the path that leads from the back porch to Hartland Street, and I had carried the various loads of vine, stem, and leaf to a weed stack down below the wall. It was a warm day and I had rolled my sleeves up, as I often do when doing yard work. All in all, it was a normal, lovely spring afternoon, perfect for yard work, and the yard work proceeded nicely.

A couple of days later, as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed that I had been unconsciously scratching my forearms. Angry round, red bumps, some with white centers, had risen, and I gradually became aware of itching. Lisa said, “Poison ivy”. I said, “I don’t think so, I’ve never had poison ivy. I don’t think I’m sensitive to it.” Lisa said, “Trust me, it’s poison ivy.”

The itching increased over the next few days; more bumps appeared, some forming a few straight lines along my arm; my scratching tore some of the bumps open; and I squeezed quantities of store-brand Benadryl substitute out of a tube each evening.

Somehow, despite years of yard work, camping, hiking, random engagement in various activities out of doors, I had never been affected by poison ivy. I don’t know how I escaped this experience in the past. Last fall I cut large quantities of huge poison ivy vine out of a spruce tree on the edge of our property, no itches in sight. But now I have been sufficiently amused by this weed and can safely say that I will not find it necessary to repeat the experience in the future. In case you’re interested, here’s how the Mayo Clinic describes the symptoms.

Anyway, just for the record, poison ivy vines, without their leaves, look a whole lot like English ivy vines without their leaves. I’m wearing a long-sleeve shirt these days.

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