Monday, July 25, 2011

Poison Ivy with A Twist

This spring I had posted some fun plants I had found in my wooded area, mentioning I would not go into the little ravine to retrieve them because of the poison ivy.  It was suggested  I do a posting about poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans.
Leaves of three, let it be....

We have a good deal of poison ivy in our woods.  The little saying above makes it clear...three leaves.  The leaves are irregularly toothed.  The leaves can be very small or very large. Next to the poison ivy is Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, a five leafed vine.  When Virginia Creeper is small, sometimes only three leaves are present....easy to confuse the two. 

The leaves are glossy on top and lighter color on the underside.  It is a woody stemmed vine. When it climbs up a tree the vine stem has hairy roots all along the stem-- easy to identify.  It can take the shape of a shrub or climb a tree or be a ground cover.  It is a tricky plant. 
 The photo below was taken by a former neighbor from Seaford.  She found a great specimen in flower.  You can see the woody stem and the shiny leaves. 
 I am including a number of photos of poison ivy because the leaves are so irregularly toothed, one might think it is a different plant.   This follow photo, while a bit fuzzy, shows how large the leaves can be.  Next to it are the leaves of a Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua. 

Notice how little the toothed ridges are on the one below.
In many of the pictures you can see a bit of red.  In the fall the poison ivy turns brilliantly red.  It is quite pretty.  
Poison ivy is of concern to those of us in the gardening world because it contains the toxic oil called urushiol.  For many of us it causes blistering rashes.  The oil can remain for a long time on the skin as well as our clothes and shoes!  Urushiol can be found in other plants in the Cashew family, Anacardiaceae, of which poison ivy is a member.  I am sure you know of a few others....poison sumac and poison oak.  Listed below are a few great web links for all three.  Poison oak is very similar in appearance to poison ivy, but it has a velvety  pubescence on the stems. 
Duke photos for ID of poison sumac
Duke photos for ID of poison ivy
Duke photos for ID of poison oak

These three plants are not the only toxic urushiol laden plants.  Cotinus, smoke trees are included in the family.  Cashews of course and pistachios are also in this family.  Roasting the nuts makes the nuts edible, no problem. 

But, here is the twist.....Mangoes are also in this family.  The urushiol is in the peel and into the flesh about 5mm deep.  How did I come across this information?? 

Check out these lips..... they look like they are collagen filled movie star lips, until you see all the water blisters. 

 This is as wide as she could smile........
We did a Google search for allergies...thinking she might be allergic to a new lip balm or to her own saliva.  Finally the search led us to this posting...
Food that destroyed my face--- where the blogger said she had eaten a mango.  What??!!? Yes, darling daughter had eaten a couple mangoes in the last few days-- the last one she ate over the sink, eating it out of the peel.   BINGO!  Then we found this website--Food for Thought  more information about mangoes.  Who knew?  And yes, she is severely allergic to poison ivy.
Well, a trip to the urgent care clinic to get some prednisone and more antihistamines made for a great start to her visit to South Carolina!
So, as you go out into the garden be on the lookout for poison ivy.  And when you are in the market, keep your eyes open for those scary mangoes!

©Copyright 2011 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.


  1. Janet,
    I'm sure you have down by the water or along a creek near by Jewelweed or touch-me-nots. If you rub the juice from the stems it will cure poison ivy right away. This is if it has not been scratched open.

    Great article and I'm sure my buddy Will will enjoy all the traffic you sent him with those links.

  2. I can spot poison ivy anywhere. So many of my friends have no clue as to what it is and lucky for them, they are not allergic. I did not know about mangoes and smoke trees being in the same family. Yikes! Lips are a bad spot to get the rash. I hope she gets better soon.

  3. Interesting post Janet, I didn't know that about Mangos.

  4. Very nice article and photos. I know poison ivy when I see it (and I do get it) but did not know that about cashews and pistachios. I knew some people have trouble with mangoes (which I love) but didn't know it was in the same family as poison ivy. I knew someone personally who thought he could develop resistance to poison ivy be eating it. Not a good idea! He almost died from doing that. And then there was the cousin who, as a child, thought a good hot shower would cure it. Also not a good idea. It spread the oils all over her body. We live and learn...

  5. Great information, Janet...I had no idea mangos could have that kind of effect. Didn't know cashews and pistachios were in the same family, either! I had a breakout about a month ago and it took several weeks to go away. It (or it's cousin, 'oak' or 'sumac') is in an island in my front yard, mixed with all of my perennials and other shrubs. It is very difficult to eliminate as it's intertwined with so many other things. I can't even tell what it is half the time, because it can be so insidious. As you noted, it can take several forms and the leaves don't look the same. We may need to bulldoze that whole area out at some point!
    So sorry this happened to your daughter and I hope by now it has cleared up. I hope the reaction didn't include inside her mouth, tongue, throat, etc...

  6. Have had many encounters with poison ivy with trips to the dr. for shots and mom was allergic to mangos so I just never ate one, good thing too! Hope your daughter feels better soon, this rash is miserable.

  7. A sad but useful post! I've read that poison ivy causes serious lung damage for firefighters when the urushiol goes up in smoke as poison ivy burns in wildfires. Thankfully my yard is not near enough to wild areas to have poison ivy creeping in.
    You mentioned catmint in your comment - in my climate the new little plants or divided/transplanted plants are slow the first year then explode the second. So hopefully yours will get going soon.

  8. Great info for folks!

    I am one of the lucky people who is not allergic to poison ivy. One great grandmother was a Native American and I've heard some folklore that say that is why I'm not allergic -- could just as well be my German heritage, as far as I know! My son, the archaeologist who is out and about in poison ivy all the time says he isn't allergic either...but, his coworkers get into bad shape with it!

  9. Poison Ivy is wicked stuff. I don't seem to be bothered by it but I'm not going to push my luck either. Dealt with it a lot in N.C. Burning is a no no as it gets into your lungs from the smoke.
    I didn't know about the mangoes. Will have to watch that. GD loves those things so will have to tell her.

  10. Randy, I will have to see if I have any growing on the property. Good info to keep filed away. I like Will's webpages and have a couple of his books.

    Tina, I can spot it too, but it sure is crazy how different it can be. She is getting better....slow process.

    Racquel, I didn't before this week either!

    Sande, thanks. Amazing the plant families...good thing to know. I have heard of people eating poison ivy, that is crazy!!

    Jan, thanks. I haven't had a case of poison ivy for a long time, but have been known to get really big blisters. She still has a few blisters. A few more days of steriods.

    Darla, I took this child to the doctor when she was in 4th grade with bad case...neither she nor her teacher could ID poison ivy and they went out in the woods next to school to collect leaves for leaf rubbings. Becca bought in poison ivy for hers. Oy!

    VW, I have often worried about the fires in the fall where folks are burning leaves...knowing how much poison ivy there is here, I am concerned about breathing it. Thanks for the info on the catmint!

    Cameron, good for you! I wish I could say the same. Both my husband and I are allergic so she was bound to be allergic.

    Lola, it sure is wicked stuff! I try to be careful with it! Yes, be sure to spread the info on mangoes with your granddaughter.

  11. I think I was the one who requested this. THANK YOU! I had no idea the teeth could vary so much in size. I am seriously itchy just from reading this.

    Mangoes are one of Clara's fave foods and I love them too. I'm not allergic to them, but I am SUPER allergic to poison ivy and oak. How interesting.

  12. What a sneeky plant with so many different leaf forms. Fascinating post Janet, I didn't realise about the link with Mango. I have a good friend with a severe Mango allergy. Glad you worked out what it is - how she is now smiling broadly again. And avoiding mangoes...

  13. I sure didn't know that about mangos I will keep the peeling away from my husband who seems to break out at the sight of poison ivy.

  14. This is a wonderful post full of information the itchy plant. We have it all over our woods and try to keep it in the woods and out of the yard but sometimes it creeps into the gardens. Hubby has cut huge roots of it off the trees and has never had a reaction until this summer. But when he was cutting it off our trees, he was well aware and took precautions to keep it off his body. When working in our neighbor’s yard digging a trench for a water sprinkler system, he was not aware of it and got it on his leg and in his eye when wiping his brow of sweat. That one caused a doctors visit to cure. Our neighbor got it also and was told that poison ivy is rampant this year. I can only wonder if it thrives in dry conditions as we are really dry this year….

    I was not aware of mangos but we don’t eat them fresh. I have mango margaritas but I doubt that would bother anyone as it is the juice from the fruit and probably not any skin involved. But if I do swell up, I will know the culprit and back away from them. Thanks for the wonderful info and links…

  15. Now I am wondering about those mangoes I am getting ready to cut up for dinner. I ate a very large amount a few weeks ago with no strange reaction. I hope I am not taking a huge chance with them!

    Poison ivy, scary stuff. I found out recently it even grows in our foothills of Colorado. Yikes, watch out on a hike!

  16. Your poor daughter, what a nasty way to find out about mangoes. Great tips though as I had no idea mangoes had this problem, nor have I ever seen poison ivy. Now I know what to look for.

  17. Ginger, stay away from the peel!! Maybe you have been lucky with not having long contact with the peel.

    Janet, I hadn't realized the link between them either. Amazing plant families. Yes, she is smiling a bit wider now...just a few more days on the meds and hopefully she will be better.

    Beyond My Garden (Nellie), thanks for stopping by! Yes, you would be a good wife by keeping mango peeling away from your husband.

    Skeeter, It can be really nasty to have a case of poison ivy. Think you are ok with mango margaritas as long as someone else does the prep of the mango.

    Rosey, Hopefully you are ok with mangoes. It is really nasty stuff.

    Marguerite, she was not a happy camper when she got home. I am not sure if poison ivy is as far north as you.

  18. Who knew that mangoes were so toxic??! A great post, Janet. We always have some poison ivy around the farm, and occasionally some of it finds its way into a garden area. I try to be careful, but invariably I wind up itching for half the summer. I also didn't know about smoke trees--I just planted one, and will have to check this out more carefully, too.

    I've always wondered if poison ivy bothers dogs?

  19. Criminy, I had no idea that smoketrees and mangoes also had that oil. Thanks for the info! I am morbidly sensitive to poison ivy and DH is too, and of course, it's everywhere here.

  20. Rose, boy I sure didn't before this! I try to be careful with the poison ivy in the garden. Had always admired the smoke tree, will do it from afar now!
    I have heard that poison ivy DOES bother dogs, though mine have been fine.

    Sweetbay, kind of scary isn't it? It is everywhere!

  21. great post, janet. mangoes are one of my very favorite fruits, but i'm not allergic to poison ivy either, fortunately. didn't realize cotinus is in that family, too. i had a neighbor a while back who told how she broke out in blisters once after sitting under her mango tree in a rain shower in miami. she had to go to the doctor, too, and that's when she found out the same thing y'all did! i hope your daughter is feeling better by now. it's scary to have a such a strong reaction.

  22. Janet, What an interesting post! I had no idea that mangoes could present this kind of problem. I wonder if kiwi is in the same family? I love kiwi, but if I miss even a bit of that rough shin when I am peeling it, I find the fruit burns my mouth. I didn't know a lot about poison ivy either. Now, I think I would recognize it and know to step around it in the woods.

  23. Who knew?

    One of my favorite posts of any blog this year. It must have taken you some time to research and write - all for our benefit. Thanks

  24. Such an excellent post!!! I get poison ivy in my garden every year. It's my least favroite native plant. I don't think I'm as severely allergic as your daughter, but I'm still very careful. I'm so glad you noted that the toothing is irregular because I've noticed the plants don't always look exactly the same. I hope your daughter is okay!!

  25. Mangos, who knew? I love them and have eaten them over the sink scraping every last bit of goodness from the skin, but never had anything happen. Then again, I have never had poison ivy. My wife will not eat them claiming the smell like kerosene.

  26. Daricia, I shared your story with the family and we were all amazed. Very scary.

    Jennifer, I don't think kiwi is in the same family, but if you get a reaction, be careful!

    Swimray, Actually my daughter who had the reaction to the mangoes did a lot of the research. Very interesting none the less.

    Casa Mariposa, As I was learning my plants, poison ivy would stump me sometimes, glad further research paid off!

    Les, She was eating it just as you described. Not sure about the kerosene smell. Becca now calls them Devil Fruit.

  27. Hey everyone,

    I'm Buddy, and I'm a few years behind but the mango strikes again!�� My fiancé lives in the Philippines so when I visited her I ate mangos every day almost. It wasn't until on the plane back to the states I started to feel the effects. It started with the corners of my mouth feeling sore. Almost as if they had papercuts. The rash expanded some but that was the end of it. I would never had thoght the mangos.

    So just a few days ago because it's now time for them to be in season I decided to go to the international market and buy some fresh mangos!! Yummy!���� Well, as you can guess the rash is back but it's on my nose now too and it seems a little more uncomfortable this time round. Thought I'd share my experience. Just to check because I correlated this back to my trip and thought okay...The only common thing here is mangos so I looked up what an allergic reaction to them looked like and yup yup! �� The whole urushiol thing is crazy.

  28. And yet another mango allergic reaction testimonial. I too after eating the fruit for many many many years have had a reaction to the yellow mango, so delicious that I ate it down to the rind. A few days later. Cracks I. The corner of my mouth blisters around my lips, can’t eat anything vingery or spicy! Thanks for sharing the experience and yes a very bad poison ivy episode years ago! Make sense

    1. SpeakingMind, thanks for the comment and glad you found my post. You are not alone with the mango reaction!


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