Photo by James Emery
I hate poison ivy, and have no idea what its purpose is besides to make me itch. In fact, the thought of it makes me itch. Every time I am exposed, my rash gets worse. National Public Radio noted in one of their radio segments that poison ivy is growing faster and more virulent due to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and forest disruption. Another wonder due to Climate Change.
Host Michele Norris interviewed Dr. Lewis Ziska, plant physiologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s agricultural research service as to the effects Climate Change has had on this pain in the butt plant. When asked the question, why is this plant growing larger and spreading, he stated:
“One of the things that we think is occurring is that as carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere – carbon dioxide, as everyone knows, is a basic greenhouse gas, but it’s also plant food. And plants take that carbon, and they convert it into sugars and carbohydrates and so forth.
But not all plants respond the same way to that resource, and we think that vines, particularly vines like poison ivy or kudzu or other noxious weeds, seem to show a much stronger response to the change in CO2 than other plant species. So on average, the poison ivy plant of, say, 1901, can grow up to 50 to 60 percent larger as of 2010 just from the change in CO2 alone, all other things being equal.
And as a result of that change, we see not only more growth but also a more virulent form of the oil within poison ivy. The oil is called urushiol, and it’s that oil that causes that causes that rash to occur on your skin when you come into contact with it.”
The thought of poison ivy becoming my neighbor makes me want to run and grab my Tecnu product keeping it safely beside me.
I am not done yet. Worse yet, Lewis stated that due to forest disruption, more poison ivy is thriving. Poison ivy usually lives on the fringe of forests since it needs sunlight. In addition, work done at Duke University showed that when you give CO2 to certain plants in a deforestation situation, poison ivy was the best responder. Figures, right?
So what about the oils? Has this become more toxic?
“What we see is that as the toxicity of the oil goes up, then yes, it means that more people would be more vulnerable to getting a rash. But also as the plant grows more and spreads more, then the chances of coming into contact with it also increase, as well,” stated Lewis.
In the Duke study, it states
“Furthermore, high-CO2 plants produce a more allergenic form of urushiol. Our results indicate that Toxicodendron taxa will become more abundant and more “toxic” in the future, potentially affecting global forest dynamics and human health.”
How to get rid of the oils?
Lewis stated with soap and water very soon after exposure. This does not work for me and I prefer Tecnu. Some commentors suggested beer or milk. I have used dirt to stop the itching. Don’t ask me why it worked. Want some home remedies, see here.
Readers, have you noticed more poison ivy in your neighborhood?
Do you have any favorite remedies?
Tip via Diane of the Big Green Purse. Thanks, Diane!