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A staff report

As the seasons turn and we find ourselves drawn to the lush beauty of the outdoors, it’s crucial to remember that not all greenery is friendly. The trio of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are common across various landscapes, and an encounter with any can lead to an uncomfortable rash, or worse, for many people.

Poison ivy, typically found as a ground vine or climbing vine, is notorious for its clusters of three almond-shaped leaves, a hallmark sign to heed.

Poison oak shares a similar structure but with leaves that resemble the lobed edges of an oak leaf, often with a reddish hue in the spring or fall.

The less common, but equally irritating, poison sumac grows as a tall shrub or small tree, with stems that contain seven to thirteen leaves arranged in pairs, and a single leaf anchoring the end. It thrives in wet, marshy areas, presenting a greater risk to those wandering near water.

Recognizing these plants is the first step in avoiding their itchy consequences. The adage “Leaves of three, let it be; berries white, a poisonous sight” can serve as a good rule of thumb, but the best defense is knowledge and caution. As you enjoy the great outdoors, keep an eye out for these plants, and if you suspect contact, wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible to mitigate the effects of their oil, urushiol. Stay safe and enjoy the natural world with respect and awareness.

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