Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Revenge on poison ivy

with 17 comments

It’s all too common for poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) to cause itchy red splotches on people’s skin. It’s also not uncommon, at least in Austin, to see reddish splotches on poison ivy. As fitting as that “revenge” may seem, it doesn’t come from people but from Aculops rhois, a tiny mite that creates these little pouches in poison ivy leaflets. Today’s picture is from May 30 on the grounds of Hyde Park Baptist High School, which is home to some lush stands of poison ivy. No doubt the people who run the school wish that weren’t so.

I believe the leaflet gets its characteristic sheen from urushiol, the chemical that irritates human skin.
By the way, did you notice the ant on the margin of the leaflet?


✥         ✥         ✥


As both an American citizen and a longtime teacher I’m appalled at how my country’s schools have devolved and keep devolving. I recently came across a roughly 30-page document entitled “The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunity for All.

Here’s the gist of it:

Public education is central to American democracy. Ideally, children from every area of our country can graduate from effective and well-resourced schools that prepare them equally for active citizenship and meaningful lives. Yet, the conditions in our schools are not ideal. Schools across the U.S. tend to struggle with educating black and Latino students when compared to their white peers. This is the case even in cities where there is notable progress on other important issues like immigration, health care and neighborhood revitalization. In fact, as we show in this report, highly prosperous cities with progressive residents have particularly poor outcomes for children living at the margins. It is ironic that this is happening for children living in cities that are best positioned to reverse the nation’s shameful education “achievement gap.”

Leaders of progressive cities often frame their policy proposals in terms of what’s best for those with the least opportunity and the greatest obstacles — those who have been “left out and left behind” …. But, in education, we found the opposite: Students in America’s most progressive cities face greater racial inequity in achievement and graduation rates than students living in the nation’s most conservative cities.

“The Secret Shame” is easy to read, maintains a calm tone, is typographically well laid out and nicely illustrated with charts and graphs presenting the data that supports the document’s claims. You’re welcome to check it out.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman







Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 13, 2022 at 4:25 AM

17 Responses

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  1. The leaf appears to be encrusted with jewels. It’s a beautiful thing, and a sight I’ve never seen. If the ant is that little dark splotch on the upper edge, to the right of center, I see that, but even enlarging it I can’t make it out as an ant. It looks more like some other insect, or even a flaw in the leaf.

    Well, unless I look at it on my iPhone. Add ‘better detail’ to ‘richer color’ in the list of differences between my PC and my phone — iPad, too. Interesting.


    June 13, 2022 at 6:30 AM

    • The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and of the monitor in the viewing. So once again the advantage goes to the Apple devices. As you saw in the end, the ant is indeed up and to the right of center. In the larger original image, it’s naturally easier to make out. As for seeing a poison ivy leaf encrusted with jewels, I suspect you won’t find many takers among those who’ve suffered a rash.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2022 at 7:27 AM

  2. A pox upon you, Poison Ivy.

    Steve Gingold

    June 13, 2022 at 2:28 PM

    • Methinks thou knowest whereof thou speakest. I’ve been fortunate never to have gotten rash from poison ivy, even after having lightly grazed against it every once in a while.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2022 at 4:50 PM

      • Youthinks correctly although I have never had a serious suffering. Mary Beth gets it worse than I but still not nearly as bad as some. I had a co-worker who got poison ivy if he was within a few feet of it. Just thinking about it. In the heat of summer he would wear a Tyvek suit when trimming the brook bank next to our store. He had the giant economy size container of Technu always on hand and if he got it bad enough he couldn’t work for days.

        Steve Gingold

        June 13, 2022 at 5:07 PM

  3. I’ve never seen galls on PI here. They probably don’t make it any less toxic. Such a wicked plant to encounter!

    Eliza Waters

    June 13, 2022 at 6:54 PM

    • I’m pretty sure you’re right that these galls don’t in any way reduce poison ivy’s toxicity to humans.

      I wondered if the mite that causes the galls might not live in an area so much colder than here, but when I checked the range map at https://bugguide.net/node/view/214835/data I found that the poison ivy leaf gall mite has been found in Massachusetts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2022 at 8:03 PM

      • Interesting… thanks for sharing that, Steve. Most ivy I see is pretty darn healthy!

        Eliza Waters

        June 13, 2022 at 8:05 PM

  4. I can see the oil on the leaves! The resin that is irritating. I’m glad the mites are having a great time in it. The text you referred to raises more questions than it answers. I used to live in a working class liberal neighborhood in Maryland with an OK elementary school and a very bad middle school. So when it came time for middle school, all the progressives who could split and put their kids in private schools, did so. I did it also, I was a student on a visa and didn’t see the US school system as my problem to solve. I recall an excellent black math teacher my son had, who every year tried to persuade the parents to stick with the middle school and change it, it rather than run away, for the sake of the students who could not run. He sent his own daughter to that middle school, consistent with his beliefs, but most parents did not seem very interested in helping the middle school get out of its misery. Being progressive on paper and on internet chatrooms is one thing, acting like you really care about those who are not as wealthy as you, is another matter altogether.

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 13, 2022 at 7:05 PM

    • I think a lot of people are happy to see poison ivy getting a taste of its own medicine.

      That’s an interesting story you recount from your own experience. Do you know why the middle school was so much worse than the elementary school? Of course people will do what’s best for their kids if they can afford it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2022 at 8:08 PM

      • I don’t know the reason, but there were very few permanent teachers on the staff, most classes were run by substitute teachers, and there was violence in the school. The standardized test scores of the students were very low and for that reason they received very little funding.

        Alessandra Chaves

        June 13, 2022 at 8:16 PM

        • If most teachers were substitutes and the school was a violent place, you did well to get out of there.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 13, 2022 at 9:16 PM

  5. That looks painful. Does a poison ivy feel pain?


    June 13, 2022 at 10:11 PM

  6. Well it looks especially poisonous with these red splotches. My first thought was, Monkey Pox!


    June 15, 2022 at 9:57 AM

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