Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Poison ivy and fruit

with 19 comments

Colorful Poison Ivy with Fruit 8276

On November 24, 2014, I took many pictures of the largely backlit poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) that had turned bright yellow and orange in the woods at McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin. Note the clusters of small fruits; birds eat them with impunity but I wouldn’t recommend you try doing that.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2015 at 5:05 AM

19 Responses

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  1. Indeed. I had a friend who bragged that she was immune to it. One weekend she went to clear brush at her cabin and had a fire to burn it all, poison ivy and all. Boy, did she get sick from breathing the fumes!

    melissabluefineart

    November 27, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    • This was one of the largest and most colorful stands of tall poison ivy I’ve seen, so I had a great time moving around and taking pictures from various angles. Naturally I was careful where I walked and knelt, because although I’ve never had a reaction to poison ivy, I don’t push my luck—unlike your friend. I’ve read about cases like that, where particles of poison ivy go up in smoke and get inhaled; I believe people have even died from that, so your friend is fortunate to have survived. The moral of the story: never burn poison ivy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2015 at 10:03 AM

      • Yes. I was also struck by the size and color of this stand. It grows everywhere here but mostly crawls along the ground next to trails, waiting for the unwary bare leg to brush against it. Once in awhile I will see it scaling a tree but never making a great show like this.

        melissabluefineart

        November 27, 2015 at 11:36 AM

        • Some of the poison ivy plants in this stand were like small trees, and that’s why there were so many leaves to turn color. We also have poison ivy that climbs high, as well as plants that stay close to the ground, as you mentioned. This is probably the most protean species I know.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 27, 2015 at 3:36 PM

          • I’m aware that poison ivy can make like a tree, but I’ve never seen it here. You are right about it being protean. I have seen it look quite different in different parts of Illinois. Like a coyote, it is a shapeshifter.

            melissabluefineart

            November 28, 2015 at 10:15 AM

            • Surely shapeshifting. I assume botanists have studied that attribute but I haven’t yet run across any such studies.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 28, 2015 at 12:14 PM

              • I haven’t either, now that you mention it. Maybe nobody wants to get that close!

                melissabluefineart

                November 28, 2015 at 12:21 PM

                • Oh, there must be some intrepid botanists out there. There must also be a few botanists who, like a small part of the general population, are immune to the effects of poison ivy and would be ideal candidates to study the species

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 28, 2015 at 12:25 PM

                • Your mention of immunity reminded me of a zoologist I read about who couldn’t smell so he studied skunks. Fine for him, not so much for those around him.

                  melissabluefineart

                  November 29, 2015 at 10:09 AM

                • That’s a good insight. Coincidentally, one of the best local botanists here has no (or a much reduced) sense of smell.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 29, 2015 at 10:34 AM

                • That is a coincidence. One of my botanist friends lost her sense of smell due to exposure to some medicine, and commented on how it impacted her work. One of the cues when keying some plants out is smell, evidently.

                  melissabluefineart

                  November 30, 2015 at 9:58 AM

                • The botanist here said it’s hereditary and that his mother has the same disability.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 30, 2015 at 11:42 AM

                • On the subject of poison ivy’s unpopularity, notice that we’re the only two people talking about this post.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 28, 2015 at 12:28 PM

                • Oh! Ha~you’ve rendered your followers speechless. 🙂

                  melissabluefineart

                  November 29, 2015 at 10:08 AM

                • Thanks for that positive take on the situation.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 29, 2015 at 10:32 AM

                • 🙂

                  melissabluefineart

                  November 30, 2015 at 9:58 AM

  2. Sorry to butt in on the private conversation, Steve and Melissa. 🙂
    Yeah, those berries are not to be messed with. I’ve heard stories like Melissa’s about people burning PI. Bad idea. We pick ours and bag it followed by a trip to the landfill.

    Steve Gingold

    November 30, 2015 at 3:17 PM

    • We welcome your company. I remember your saying that you pick and bag your poison ivy, but I don’t envy you that task. Do you use disposable gloves?

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2015 at 10:19 PM


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