Oh joy (scratch, scratch)
September 17, 2023 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Poison ivy is poised to be one of the big winners in this global, human-caused phenomenon. Scientists expect the dreaded three-leafed vine will take full advantage of warmer temperatures and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to grow faster and bigger — and become even more toxic...
posted by jim in austin (48 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
we're gonna need a bigger bingo card
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 2:46 PM on September 17 [9 favorites]

Turn and run!
Nothing can stop them.
posted by whatevernot at 2:50 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]

Here in California we don’t have to worry as we don’t have poison ivy. There’s this stuff called poison oak but that must be different so no worries.
posted by njohnson23 at 3:01 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]

posted by GenjiandProust at 3:02 PM on September 17 [3 favorites]

I'm remembering the guidelines from the guy who does You Bet Your Garden on public radio about how to remove poison ivy:

Soak the ground where the ivy is growing low and slow for several days. You want to create mud.

Wear long sleeves you don't care about and disposable gloves and have a ton of disposable grocery bags on hand.

Use the bags as an added barrier between your body and the plants as you pull them out of the mud.

Every time you get a vine out, set aside the vine AND the plastic bag. Use a new bag every time.

Put everything in trash bags. Put on fresh gloves to take off your clothes. Throwing away the clothes might be the best choice.

Use best practices for removing gloves -- take off one glove and use the inside of the removed glove to protect the hand taking off the second glove, dispose touching inside surfaces only.
posted by hippybear at 3:13 PM on September 17 [18 favorites]

You're gonna need an ocean
Of calamine lotion
You'll be scratchin' like a hound
The minute you start to mess around
With Poison Ivy, Poison Ivy
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:49 PM on September 17 [13 favorites]

posted by eustatic at 4:09 PM on September 17 [7 favorites]

I remember seeing the original 1990s study referred to in the article. Considering that poison ivy is, like, the unofficial state plant of New Jersey, my thoughts remain the same as they did 25 years: "Oh, great." It's a bit weird living in a world where so many of things that climate scientists and ecologists 20 to 30 years were saying would happen are, in fact, happening. Rapid intensification, anyone?
posted by mollweide at 4:16 PM on September 17 [7 favorites]

or maybe

posted by eustatic at 4:17 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]

It's a bit weird living in a world where so many of things that climate scientists and ecologists 20 to 30 years were saying would happen are, in fact, happening. Rapid intensification, anyone?
posted by mollweide at 4:16 PM on September 17

13 year old me is really disappointed in all of us
posted by eustatic at 4:18 PM on September 17 [9 favorites]

Hmm, I thought the future would be kudzu and trees-of-heaven fighting it out.
posted by credulous at 4:23 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]

I need to share this with my coworker. Timely article, as she's battling a bad case of poison ivy currently. She has no idea where in her yard it came from...
posted by annieb at 4:25 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]

I started grad school at Duke in 2005 as Jackie Mohan was finishing her PhD and Bill Schlesinger was about to leave for a new job. The poison ivy study made national news at the time--I'm pretty sure it was on NPR. During my time there, I helped other folks collect data and lead student tours at the Duke FACE (free-air carbon dioxide enrichment) site.

Those large scale FACE studies all over the world were so critical to really developing an ecophysiological understanding of the effects of CO2 enrichment. They clearly had their limits, e.g., no temperature increase, just CO2, but it was an amazing tool to test our hypotheses about plants, soil, microbes, and fungi in as close to a real ecosystem as possible.

It was very strange out there--the CO2 towers occupied a lot of space and made a tremendous amount of noise, and thus, for the control rings, they had to have the full infrastructure just spraying ambient air so that the controls were identical in every way but CO2 enrichment. At least one tanker truck delivered CO2 every day, and the coils around the storage tank were always covered with ice because liquid CO2 is cold and the air was always humid. The location of every soil sample ever taken was marked with a colored flag. Each research group involved had their own distinct color, so the soil in the rings was just a rainbow of little colored flags. All the plants had ID tags, including the poison ivy.

Another bizarre detail--they figured out that the plants in the carbon enriched rings weren't using as much carbon as they could because there wasn't enough nitrogen in the soil to keep up, so they built a divider in the soil of each ring and fertilized half, leaving the other half unfertilized, to see if increasing nitrogen availability allowed the enriched trees to take in more carbon.

Duke FACE was demolished around the time I finished my PhD. 25 years of data declared done, and the by-then massive loblolly pines were harvested for the sort of measurements that can only be done on dead trees. Not sure what they did with all the poison ivy.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:49 PM on September 17 [27 favorites]

I saw this headline this morning and thought, why can’t the global climate disaster create the conditions for the proliferation of, say, cotton candy, instead?
posted by notyou at 5:20 PM on September 17 [5 favorites]

I am suffering through my second bout with poison ivy this summer because I am not observant enough when I go mushroom foraging in the woods. First time it was on my legs, so I put pants on after that. Now it's on my arms, go figure.

I unfortunately(?) don't have any recent memories to compare these encounters. Last time I had poison ivy was when I was a child... when I had it concurrently with chicken pox. That was a great summer.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:43 PM on September 17 [3 favorites]

Just finished a run of prednisone for the poison ivy all over me.

Goddamn I hate that plant.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:48 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]

I guess I'm not very susceptible to poison ivy (yet) because we have it all over the place. I occasionally get some minor itches on my arms after yard work but that's about it.

I was just in the front tiers cutting down some of the more impressive weeds yesterday -- it's been too hot for me to stand being out there doing any kind of exertion until recently. This morning my father-in-law pointed out a bunch of poison ivy right where I'd spent some time standing. I hadn't even noticed.
posted by Foosnark at 6:41 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]

We have poison oak here, not poison ivy, but its management is the same. When I'm going to remove some, I go buy a long sleeve shirt at the thrift store and some dishwashing gloves. Those will go into the trash. I keep Technu around for washing. If a rash or itching occurs, diphenhydramine (Benadryl) gel is great.
posted by neuron at 6:56 PM on September 17 [4 favorites]

I should clarify the bit about the grocery bags and pulling the vines.

You put your hands inside the bag, and then pull the vine holding onto it through the bag, and then after it's pulled you turn the bag inside out around the vine, so now it's inside the bag, and in theory you have never touched it. And that's why you use one bag per vine -- you're wrapping them up as you get them out and segregating them for polite society.
posted by hippybear at 6:59 PM on September 17 [4 favorites]

The worst part about poison ivy is that it only affects humans. Your dog can roll in it, birds eat the berries, deer nosh on it.
posted by emjaybee at 7:12 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]

Buy, borrow, or steal goats.
posted by device55 at 7:30 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]

@Foosnark, that is likely to change. I grew up in the south, and I have no idea how much poison ivy I walked through because it never affected me. Once I bought a house, and had kids who were sensitive to it, I had to start pulling it up when it appeared. Now I’m as allergic as anyone — apparently repeated exposure increases one’s sensitivity. I recommend you start being careful.
posted by conscious matter at 7:42 PM on September 17 [9 favorites]

When I was a kid I discovered that I wasn't allergic to poison ivy. I was walking in the woods and brushed up a bunch of the stuff that a friend of mine pointed out was poison ivy. I waited for the itching to happen but it never did. Once I even tried to deliberately infect a part of skin (I know, stupid, I was a kid) but no reaction at all.

Then one time...I did have a reaction. I don't know if it was poison ivy or poison oak, but my skin erupted with these disgusting orange blisters that itched like a mf, and I just carried around a bottle of rubbing alcohol and dabbed them with a cotton ball to dry out the skin. The only other time I had an itch that bad was when I had an allergic reaction to caterpillar hair--that one was similar but even worse and spread even more.
posted by zardoz at 8:49 PM on September 17 [3 favorites]

JUST IN CASE ANYONE READING THIS DOES NOT KNOW -- Hot Water Showers. As hot as you can stand it. The feeling as the stuff is released is as good as sex and no, I am not kidding. Relief that lasts about four hours. And antihistamines.

I am remarkably allergic to the stuff. Once after getting a huge exposure I ended up at the ER, my throat was closing down, they gave me a shot, some magic steroid.

I've often wondered, guys who fought in Vietnam, you're fighting in a jungle, was/is there poison ivy over there? Because the instant the fighting started you're going to throw yourself down immediately, you're not going to look and see if you are hurling yourself into whatever plant.

Anytime that anyone starts going on about a god of love, poison ivy/oak/sumac are a logical first question, even before republicans, even before cancer..........
posted by dancestoblue at 9:56 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]

If one has to combat poison ivy Tyvek coveralls with booties and elastic hood to integrate with full face respirator are pretty cheap; like less than C$10 each. You don't need the respirator unless the PI is on fire but it'll stop you from touching your face with contaminated gloves.
posted by Mitheral at 10:02 PM on September 17 [4 favorites]

You don't need the respirator unless the PI is on fire

So even literal scorched earth isn't a safe option for removal? Yikes.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:06 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]

dancestoblue, as far as I know poison ivy is exclusive to North and Central America, although there are some similar species in East Asia, including the tree from which lacquer is obtained. In old Japan, lacquer working ran in families and babies were screened for allergy by laying them on a panel of freshly-cured lacquer.

Meanwhile here in Europe we don't have any, ad the only plant I've ever seen was one at Kew Gardens, which lived in a little wire cage. I laugh happily in european, then trip and fall into a bed of stinging nettles...
posted by Fuchsoid at 12:08 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]

The sweet husband had his second reaction ever to poison ivy this summer. He knew that he might be in trouble when clearing out some brush on his parents' property. Sure enough, the itching had started on his arms, legs and forehead before he got back to the house for a hot soapy shower.
After a week of calamine lotion he went to the doctor. One shot and a script for medicated lotion were all it took. The rash began to clear up the same day.
If the itching and rashes persist or get worse, don't hesitate to check with your health care provider. No one needs to be that miserable.
posted by TrishaU at 1:30 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]

About half the remaining Saiga antelope were killed by their existing nose bacteria in 2015, due to climate change. We handle bacteria better than them, but fungus could really do a number on us. Ain't too worried about poison ivy though.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:36 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

Never get near anyone burning poison ivy: its devilish power lasts through the flames.

A young man in my sons' Scout troop was downwind of a fire when some dumb kids threw poison ivy in it, and he ended up in the hospital for what the smoke did to his lungs. I wasn't on that trip, or we would have tracked down those kids so they knew the seriousness of what they did.

He quit Scouting, too, and I don't blame him.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:58 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]

Lovely. The missus is so sensitive to the stuff that, seemingly, all she needs to do is look at the stuff wrong and she’s in misery for a couple of weeks.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:30 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]

Tecnu sounds like scientology but it is a soap that breaks up the oils after contact, have some of that handy!

My nearby public park is about 25% poison ivy. One year we brought in goats to eat some of it and knotweed which was fun. We put up signs every 3 feet on the fence in english/spanish to warn people away from petting the goats. Poison ivy always wins the race though.

My spouse is super allergic, her skin blisters up wherever those oils make contact. It is the only thing we have used roundup on. It is chemical warfare but the ivy started it. We carefully apply it to individual leaves as opposed to spraying.
posted by drowsy at 4:34 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]

It is the only thing we have used roundup on.

Same here: I would use napalm or a space laser if I could.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:22 AM on September 18 [7 favorites]

It's good to see some academic research into climate change getting broader attention.

Now to convince colleges and universities to take the crisis seriously. I might use this as a small example of global warming's impact. "Are you ready for poison ivy to spread across your campus?"
posted by doctornemo at 5:28 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]

Jewelweed immediately applied to the site of exposure will neutralize the urushiol (the stuff that actually makes the itch), or so I have read. It's a very pretty native plant that often grows wild in the Northeast and can be planted as well.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 6:50 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]

Since we're discussing remedies, sufferers of Poison Ivy, does Calamine lotion actually do anything for you? Before I left the East coast I remember a bout with the ivy (which had never bothered me, as a kid) and I'd paint affected areas with that gunk, but the only result was an ugly pink coating on my itching flesh.
posted by Rash at 8:47 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]

I had poison ivy a couple of months ago. I was prescribed a topical steroid of some sort, but it was the calamine that really made a difference. The doctor strongly recommended getting some, and that proved to be the best advice.
posted by Surely This at 8:59 AM on September 18

When I last tried to clear some undergrowth at my wife's Dad's house I got poison ivy. And also ticks. The warming climate is great for ticks too, I understand.

If chiggers are included as beneficiaries of the new warm world, as well, I am going to just stay inside.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:09 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]

Since we're discussing remedies, sufferers of Poison Ivy, does Calamine lotion actually do anything for you?

NOPE! Steroids were the only thing that ever made a dent when I had it bad.
posted by that's candlepin at 11:00 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

Oh, great. Poison ivy is something I've never encountered. I'm told it grows here, but I guess not in areas I have ever visited. Perhaps I'll have to actually worry about it in future years.
posted by asnider at 11:04 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

Native Americans ingested leaves in increasing amounts to produce hyposensitization, and there is some human trial evidence to confirm that if done correctly it can work! A study from 1974, can't imagine getting this past an IRB these days lol:

More than 500 volunteers were patch tested with dilutions of purified poison oak urushiol in acetone. Of this group, 69 subjects participated in three experiments that conclusively showed that large amounts of urushiol taken over a period of three or more months produced measurable hyposensitization, as detected by repeated patch testing. No systemic toxicity was observed, but pruritis ani was common, and occasional skin eruptions were seen when too much drug was given. These cutaneous symptoms and signs disappeared once the subject had become hyposensitized.

Pruritis ani indeed! Weird coincidence to see this post, since I just watched a Peter Santanello video with Titus, Minister of the Gospel in backwoods Kentucky, and on camera he holds poison ivy and eats small bits of the leaves around 1:32: Titus eating poison ivy and talks about ramping up the ingested dose to de/hyposensitize himself! Obvs, IANYD, nor am I recommending this as medical advice.
posted by SinAesthetic at 11:36 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

O Me! O Life! of the vaccines of itches recurring ...
posted by MonsieurPEB at 12:47 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]

A few years ago, the city wanted to turn a poison-ivy-infested stretch along a river near us into a series of walking trails. They hired goats, which love the stuff. Go, goats!
posted by adamg at 1:58 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]

The woods by my last house, in eastern Pennsylvania, had poison ivy vines growing high up into trees, with vines 3" in diameter.
posted by Goofyy at 3:02 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]

Because someone had to do it….

And another thumbs up re:unleashing the goats. I’ve seen goats take care of the overgrown brush near my folks’ house, so you should (hopefully) just need a few of them to deal with the local poison ivy.
posted by gtrwolf at 6:49 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]

A lot of places have goat rentals for landscape clearing. It might be worth searching and finding out rates and such.
posted by hippybear at 7:10 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]

Yeah, but then you have to hire wolves to get rid of the goats.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:58 AM on September 19 [4 favorites]

"No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death."
posted by mikelieman at 6:23 AM on September 19 [3 favorites]

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