Leaves of Three

Prospect Park’s Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, has leafed out. This is only one version of this very variable plant, which can be a shrub, a trailing vine, or a climbing vine. Old vines snaking up trees are hairy beasts, often with horizontal twigs. All parts of the plant can cause severe inflammation, so remember the old mnemonic, “leaves of three, leave it be.”

I understand it loves all the excess carbon dioxide we’re pumping into the atmosphere and is actually becoming more “poisonous” as a result (people respond differently to the noxious oil in the plant, typically with a nasty, bubbly rash, but it’s not terminal). This patch was alongside a path on the north side of the Peninsula, another good reason to stay on the paths in the park. Although we humans aren’t fond of it, the plant’s fruit is an important winter food for birds, who aren’t affected by the plants inflammatory oil.

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