Poison Ivy Is Spreading! What Can We Do?

Jul 30, 2023
close up view of a Poison Ivy plant. Photo source: Medline Plus.

Image: Poison Ivy plant. Photo source: Medline Plus.

by Christine Muller

The higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not only cause the warming of the Earth resulting in climate change, it also has a strong fertilization effect on Poison Ivy! You can find Poison Ivy in many places in the United States. It always has three leaves arranged together, but they can vary in size and color (green to reddish), and they can be shiny or matte. It especially thrives in disturbed areas.

Poison Ivy is now growing faster, and its poison is getting more toxic because it produces more, and more potent urushiol, an oil that causes an allergic reaction in about 80% of humans. The more frequently one is exposed, the more severe the reaction becomes which ranges from miserable itching to more severe complications, and when the plant is burnt, its fumes are very dangerous. So, we must take Poison Ivy seriously.

You don’t have to be afraid of Poison Ivy. If you come in contact with it or think you might have been exposed, just carefully wash the area with water and soap, ideally using a washcloth to rub off the oil, but you must do it within two hours of exposure. (Afterwards wash the washcloth as well as all the clothing that may have touched the Poison Ivy.)

If Poison Ivy is growing in your yard or around Bahá’í properties, the responsible thing to do is to get rid of it.

The easiest and best way to get rid of Poison Ivy is to weed it while it is still young. You can easily remove it by loosening the soil a little with a narrow shovel, gently removing other plants and soil. The stem connected to the root is quite sturdy, which helps to get the whole plant. You can easily remove 10 small Poison Ivy plants in about 10 minutes.

Once a Poison Ivy plant has been growing for several years and has developed a strong root system, you will need a big shovel and some strength to dig it out, and it is possible that you will have to do it again the following year because it may be hard to catch all the roots of an established plant. Another option is to pour boiling water over the plant. Just try to keep the boiling water confined to Poison Ivy because it will kill other plants as well. Here are more tips how to remove poison ivy: 8 Best Ways To Kill And Get Rid Of Poison Ivy.

If at all possible, stay away from weed killer. It is extremely harmful to you and the environment. However, if there is a bad infestation over a large area and it is impossible to eradicate it with other means, Poison Ivy removal may be the one exception to the rule to never use weed killers. Whatever you do to get rid of it, you must wear gloves and protective clothing. After you are done, you must thoroughly wash the gloves and the tools with warm water and soap. Throw all the clothing that may have touched the Poison Ivy into the laundry.

Despite the need to remove it, we can still appreciate the beauty of the plant!

Wayne Talbot, one of the readers of this newsletter, suggests goats for Poison Ivy control. Goats like to eat it. This method is suitable when you have a larger area to clear. It is even possible to rent goats for that purpose.


Christine Muller, Teacher of Music and the Environment

Board Secretary, International Environment Forum

I was interested in environmental issues already at a young age and became a Bahá’í when I was 17, which was the beginning of a life-long study of the Bahá’í Faith. As the environmental crisis was worsening, I began to systematically study climate change at a time when not much information was easily available. I also searched the Bahá’í teachings for a spiritual solution to the climate crisis. At that time, climate change was not known to most people and there were no educational materials available. That’s why I wrote Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change – an Interfaith Study Course, which the International Environment Forum posted in 2009. I joined the Wilmette Institute as support faculty for its Sustainable Development course in 2011 and created its Climate Change course the following year. I also teach a course on climate change for the Environmental Sciences Department of the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) in Iran. I have served on the board of RI Interfaith Power&Light for more than a decade. In recent years, much of my time is spent serving the Bahá’í-inspired International Environment Forum ( as its secretary.  My formal academic background is in music, and I enjoy part-time piano teaching, playing and - when there is time - composing music. A recent composition is Humans on Earth – a Ballad of Our Time for two singers, string orchestra, piano, and percussion. Its lyrics include quotations from scientific sources and the Bahá’í Writings. Christine’s articles on BahaiTeachings.orgSee Faculty Bio


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