Q. With all the rain we have had this summer, I have noticed a large outbreak of poison ivy plants. Is there any immunization available? A neighbor stated that you can build up immunity by consuming a small dose and then gradually increasing the dosage?
— F. l. of Caseyville
A. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is toxic not just in the leaves but also the stems, roots, yellow-greenish flowers, the brown stems and the 1/4 -inch white-greenish fruits. Do not eat any part of the plant as it could cause an internal rash in the throat and stomach.
Wash any affected area of your body within one hour of touching poison ivy. Wash with just soap with no oils (Fels-Naptha) as the oils can spread the rash. Some naturalists use the liquid of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) to treat an affected area of the body. You can find jewelweed sometimes growing near to where poison ivy is growing. Gather jewelweed leaves, not the flowers, and boil them to make a tea. Dab this over the area of the rash. You can freeze any remaining tea in an ice cube tray but label it so no one makes a mistake and adds it to a beverage.
I learned to identify plants very quickly from a Boy Scout weekend camping trip as we were digging for Sassafras roots to make a tea in February. All we had to do was smell the sassafras roots to identify it but poison ivy was growing in the same vicinity. My head swelled up like a basketball and I had to take shots every day for about 10 days. The sap was just beginning to move upward in the plant and it was very concentrated with the oil urushiol.
Birds and deer eat the poison ivy berries and spread the seeds over large areas. With all the rain, these seeds germinated easily this year.
You can kill poison ivy with an herbicide containing 2,4-D and MCPP . Some products even have this in a foam form to ensure the whole leaf is covered. This will take about 10 days to two weeks to see the plants turning brown. Do not burn any of the dead plant parts because the oil can be carried in the smoke This is the worst form of irritation because it can spread into the lungs. Any oil from this plant can remain potent for many months.
Q. With all the wildfires in California a group of friends were wondering about the redwood trees and their survival this year. What are their chances?
— F.K. of Granite City
A. The largest group of Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens and S. gigantea) is found in a small (roughly 60 square miles) area north of San Francisco along a line west of the Nevada mountain range to the coast. That’s the sea fog region. There are other areas, but they are not connected.
The reproductive powers of these trees are enormous as they can produce stump sprouts after a fire event and can produce another forest. In 2009, the 10 largest were named and sized mainly in three main areas located close to Crescent City — The Lost Monarch was found in Jedediah Smith Park (321 feet tall and 26 feet in diameter), Del Norte Titan ( 307 feet tall and 23.7 feet in diameter), El Viejo del Norte (324 feet tall and 23 feet in diameter), Howland Hill (330 feet tall and 19.8 feet in diameter). In Prairie Creek Redwoods was found Iluvatar (feet tall and 20.5 feet in diameter), Sir Isaac Newton (299 feet tall and 22.5 feet in diameter), Terex Titan (270 feet tall and 21.3 feet in diameter, and Adventure Tree (334 feet in height and 16.5 feet in diameter. Melkor (349 feet tall and 22.4 feet in diameter) is in Redwood National Park. Finally the Bull Creek Giant (339 feet in height and 22.3 feet in diameter) is in Humboldt State Park.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do it now
HEIRLOOMS: If you planted any heirloom vegetables or flowering plants, start collecting seeds to save them for planting next year.
PERENNIALS: You can start dividing peonies, iris and hostas.