As I mentioned last week, every part of Poison Ivy is toxic. Still, could there be a tiny spark of good somewhere in its sappy vascular tissue? Does it have ANY useful purpose besides being an amazing way for the town curmudgeon to keep neighbors off their lawn?
The answer is, yes, it does. It can keep sand dunes near beaches from eroding away. Deer eat its leaves. And many birds dine on its berries in winter when other foods are scarce. But, no, this isn’t a plea for you to feed your local chickadees because they’re so desperate they’ll brave an itchy rash for sustenance. They just aren’t allergic to it. Homo sapiens is one of the few species that is. (Lucky us…)
This ability of most animals to tolerate this plant is a mixed blessing for humans. I’ve watched my cat roll in it—and then smugly transfer the oil to the next person who petted it. (A good topic for a future blog: How We Know Cats Hate Us.) Bird droppings scatter the seeds and the plants that grow from them throughout your formerly itch-free lawn. BUT there are also goats. Wonderful, hungry goats that can munch away your Poison Ivy patch forever. And, if you’re one of the smart business owners who hire out their Billies and Nannies for this purpose, call me. After years of scratching hives on my wrists for weeks, DESPITE having worn protective gear while yanking the vines out of my yard, I’ll rent your livestock on the spot.
Information for this post came from
AMERICAN WILDLIFE AND PLANTS: A GUIDE TO WILDLIFE FOOD HABITS by A.C. Martin, H.S. Zim, and A. L. Nelson. 1951. Dover Publications, Inc., New York, NY.