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How to deal with dead trees hosting live poison ivy

 
master pollinator
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I don't know if any of you have to deal with this but here on my little homestead I've got a small stand of ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer that I'm slowly cutting down and turning into fuel for my RMH.  I also seem to have especially great conditions for growing poison ivy!!  There are a fair number of trees sporting really hearty poison ivy vines taking advantage of the skyscraper real estate.  Since I'm not really keen on my chainsaw sending flying bits of itch and blister everywhere I wanted to deal with this.  

What I've done which seems to work is take my bow saw and by hand make a couple narrow cuts through the ivy trunk, cutting it down below where I will cut the tree when felling it.  I make 2 cuts about 12 inches apart so I can physically pull a chunk of the vine out.  I don't know that it would be able to grow over such a wound if I just made one cut.  I doubt it.  However, when I pull a chuck out I can clearly see later that I have gotten that vine.  Then I have to be patient and wait long enough for it to fully die off and hopefully become non reactive.  I've been waiting 6 months to a year.  Though when waiting that long I do have to watch for new small vines looking to make inroads.

Does anyone else have other tricks they use to deal with this sort of thing?

 
DSC05482.JPG
A dead ash tree with a hearty vine of live poison ivy growing up it. I have cut out a section to kill the vine prior to felling the tree next year.
A dead ash tree with a hearty vine of live poison ivy growing up it. I have cut out a section to kill the vine prior to felling the tree next year.
 
pollinator
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I do the same thing, but use a machete or bill hook. And cut out a bigger piece.  I also will scrape the tree bark off to get rid of all the little tendrils, any bit thrown by the saw is bad news for me.

 
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My heartfelt sympathies.  I hate that stuff. We have poison oak that does the same thing here and I've taken down plenty of poison oak "trees".  Cutting a big chunk out of the vine will eventually kill the green above the cut.  I spray the freshly cut stem that's rooted with brush killer and that seems to help.  But poison oak at least will root from cuttings if you do the chop and drop thing and has roots like vines so when you kill the root or plant in one place it pops up in another.  And the uroshiol as far as I can tell goes on forever.  I've heard of people getting a poison ivy or oak rash from spreading compost and I read once that they've even found it in some ancient Mayan burial sites! So what I do, and yes it's a big pain in the you know what, is cut it up enough to get it into contractor bags (using an electric pruner in one hand and a big wire cutter for picking it up to cut it in the other) and then we landfill it.  Tecnu and a hot hair dryer blown on the rash both help a lot.  Good luck.
 
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I don't have a ton of experience with poison ivy, but we did have to eradicate a few spots on our property (recently found more...). We dug ours up, put it in trash bags, and threw it out. There was one other spot I found and I had some old shingles laying around so I tossed them on top and walked away. Recently I had a look under it (been a few months) and it all died, so if it stays that way come next spring I'll consider my laziness a success.
 
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There's a great video that I watched about washing up after poison ivy contact, the gist of it is to treat exposed areas to vigorous washing with soap and scrubbing, emphasis on the scrubbing... Since urushiol is invisible, axle grease was used as the visual in the video. (Axle grease practice was suggested) The video also showed that a thorough dry wiping was better than a poor washing with soap and water.
Depending on your sensitivity you have 30 minutes to a few hours before it absorbs into skin and no longer washable.
Yes, urushiol is long-lasting and can stay on tools and clothing and be transferred to skin months later.

Burning poison ivy is a no-no!! It can get into your eyes, mouth, nose, throat, and lungs. If you get a bad rash on your skin, you will regret these other places.

I'd be sure to strip and discard the bark from the logs before bucking and splitting at a different location to minimize chances of contamination.
 
David Huang
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Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences and approaches.  Kenneth I pretty sure I once saw the same video you are mentioning.  It was amazing to see and realize that the scrubbing was far more important than the soap!  That's one bit of info that has stuck with me ever since, esp. when I get into "playing" with my poison ivy patches.  Thankfully I am not someone who is super reactive to the stuff, which is not to say I don't react if enough gets on me.
 
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I don't know about getting rid of it but for the reaction, I keep jewelweed soap and salve. If I know I've been exposed I'll take a cool shower and use the soap liberaly. The salve gets used if I have any itches a few hours after the shower.
 
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The thing that sets my radar off big time is you're using this for heating.  Most of the poison ivy related emergency room visits come from people who have burned poison ivy and either inhaled the urushiol or gotten it in their eyes.  In the former case, the internal reaction is severe and your throat can swell shut.  Since the rocket heater is presumably in an enclosed space, the risk is magnified.  It doesn't matter if you kill the vine.  All of the urushiol is still there and will continue to be there.

In my experience the single thing that works for poison ivy is to pull it by hand after a rainy day.  I once spent a month going out every weekend with a salt/vinegar/soap spray and spraying each individual plant.  A few leaves curled up.  I laid down about 50 square yards of fabric covered in mulch.  It happily grew around the edges.  Out of desperation I've used industrial roundup.  No effect.  I've pulled by hand in dry conditions.  Little suckers get left behind and become new plants.  

Putting on protective gear and hand pulling the ivy into contractor bags after a good rain is the only thing I've found effective.  You need to do this over the course of 2-3 years.

 
Rob Lineberger
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David Huang wrote:  Thankfully I am not someone who is super reactive to the stuff, which is not to say I don't react if enough gets on me.



I am glad to hear that but I urge you not to bank on it.  Urushiol production is magnified by environmental stressors.  If the plant is subjected to drought, heat fluctuations, or other adverse conditions, it will temporarily divert its growth resources into urushiol production to protect itself.  If there have been any water shortages, cold or heat snaps during the growth of that vine, there will be areas of greater urushiol density.  In fact, anecdotally based on other gardening forums I read,  there has been an overall increase in urushiol in poison ivy plants over the last 10 years or so.  

I have my own conclusions as to why but I can tell you that I have permanent scarring across my midsection from poison ivy that I contacted almost ten years ago, and I was not particularly reactive up to that point.  

Edited to add:  I was wrong, it is not heat or drought but atmospheric CO2 that causes the increased concentration of urushiol.  Here is one quote that summarizes it nicely:

Climate change effects

Poison ivy is expected to get “bigger and badder” in the coming decades. This prediction comes from another study by a group of researchers who examined the effects of higher atmospheric CO2 levels on poison ivy. The plant significantly increases in both growth and biomass in response to elevated CO2 levels; in fact, its increased growth rate outpaces most other woody species, such as oak trees, birch trees, and pine trees for example (Mohan et al. 2006, Curtis and Wang 1998). The group further found poison ivy produces a more toxic form of urushiol under these higher CO2 concentrations. In short, we can expect poison ivy to become more widespread, aggressive, and harmful in the coming years (Mohan et al. 2006).
 
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I've found even long dead poison ivy can cause skin irritation, its the oils in the poison ivy plant that cause problems for susceptible people like myself. I chop the ivy vine with axe a foot above and below where I will cut tree wearing long sleeve shirt and gloves. once tree is on the ground I pull the vines off tree and let it rot in forest then cut up tree for firewood.
 
David Huang
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Rob Lineberger wrote:The thing that sets my radar off big time is you're using this for heating...   ...Since the rocket heater is presumably in an enclosed space, the risk is magnified.  It doesn't matter if you kill the vine.  All of the urushiol is still there and will continue to be there.



Thanks for all the info Rob.  I feel like I should clarify in case anyone thinks I'm planning to burn the poison ivy. I am NOT planning to burn the ivy, only the wood of the ash tree.  I am killing the vine so it won't be as virulent when I later cut down the tree, AND then pull the dead vine off it before cutting it up into firewood.  In this case an advantage I have is that the trees are already dead and wanting to shed their bark at this point.  This does generally allow the ivy/bark combo to pull off easily.

That said, and I will note I am NOT intending to try this, I suspect it could be burned safely in a properly made and functioning rocket mass heater (RMH).  I say this because there should be no smoke back feeding into the enclosed space of the house and the temperatures it burns at are WAY hotter than most fires such that it is burning the smoke.  I should think all the urushiol oils would completely burn too since I'm not imagining their flash point is above 1500 to 2000 degrees F.  Of course this would also be assuming the RMH was running up to temp before putting any poison ivy in it!  Again, I have NO intentions of trying this.  It's just an intellectual thought.  :)  
 
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I normally just sever it with an axe close to the ground and then hit the vine above it to dislodge it from the tree to separate the cut ends, and hopefully speed up the process of the vine loosening from the tree as it weathers. If you leave it long enough, the bark will eventually start to peel and all the poison ivy will just come off with the bark leaving clean wood. I've never seen the large vines like that sprout back out much, but small plants will for sure. As a bit of insurance, if you want to try to poison the stump, you might mix a paste of borax and water and smear it on the cut. Boron is a vital micronutrient for plants, but poison ivy is particularly susceptible to overdoses of it. I've never seen the need, though. I would just cut them and keep an eye on them and only do more if they sprout back out next year. I prefer to do as little as possible when it comes to poison ivy!
 
bruce Fine
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I went through same exact thing with ash trees a couple few years ago. fortunately the bark comes off dead ash very easily and ash is a great firewood.
just a story about burning poison ivy---a friend had a bon fire and they put a bunch of dead poison ivy vines in it. one woman got a good wiff of the smoke and landed her in hospital with serious lung problems.
 
Jordan Holland
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bruce Fine wrote:I went through same exact thing with ash trees a couple few years ago. fortunately the bark comes off dead ash very easily and ash is a great firewood.
just a story about burning poison ivy---a friend had a bon fire and they put a bunch of dead poison ivy vines in it. one woman got a good wiff of the smoke and landed her in hospital with serious lung problems.



An interesting historical side-note: do you know that in Japan, they actually used urusiol in wood finishes? The rifle stocks were finished with it in WWII. As US soldiers took rifles home after the war as mementos, it was a common desire among them to refinish them on the boat ride home to pass the time. There were many infirmary cases of rashes and dust inhalation problems from this.
 
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I, too, know someone (who burned brush without knowing there was poison ivy in it) who landed in the hospital, struggling to breathe, and had a long, slow recovery.  Do not burn it!

If I have to be anywhere near it, I cover my hands and anything else exposed with Technu.  I put plastic backs over my shoes.  I immediately throw all my outside clothes into the washer, before taking off my gloves.  Then I throw my gloves in, and then I wash off the Technu and begin scrubbing.  I have had bad cases that required courses of steroids to bring down the swelling.  

I did get rid of some by covering it with a heavy tarp and mulch for two years.  It did creep around out from the edges, and I covered those creepers up too.  Spraying never helped.  I like the borax idea!

People allergic to PI should also avoid raw cashews.  The itch comes as it leaves the body . . . I will spare you any other details!
 
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