Finding Answers

IF YOU ITCH LATER…

Q

Poison ivy plagues my crew, even in winter. Everything I've researched describes the differences between poison ivy and Virginia creeper in foliage. How can I tell the difference in the winter when we're clearing brush? — Memphis, Tenn.

A

It is tough to distinguish them, even in summer. Virginia creeper often has only three leaflets on leaves growing at the tip of the vine. Only when you follow the vine back to more mature leaves can you find out if it is indeed poison ivy or other vine. However, there are a few other differences that may help you. Poison ivy (Toxicodon radicans) has greenish-white berries that form in the summer and drop off in late fall. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquifolia) has bluish-black berries that form in fall. Poison ivy vines have lots of hairy aerial roots that give the vine a fuzzy rope appearance. While Virginia creeper does have some aerial roots, it does not have nearly as many. When in doubt, cut the vine at the base, apply a sprout-inhibiting herbicide on the cut surface. Be careful of the oils from the vine though, even in winter. The oil can persist on your boots, gloves and other items for years. There are products available that you apply prior to contact with poison ivy, as well as other products to apply if you know you've been exposed. These can help reduce or eliminate the poison ivy rash.

WEED WARRANT

Q

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I've had a visit from the county weed control agent saying that part of our property is infested with musk thistle. Where could I have found out about these weeds so I could take care of the problem before I got “busted”? — Athens, Ga.

A

Fortunately, many regulatory agencies are taking a cooperative approach to enforcement. Most would like to help you control the problem, given the opportunity, rather than impose fines. In certain cases and locations, there is even funding available to help with weed management. Musk thistle is on the national list of noxious weeds. In addition to weeds classified as noxious on a national level, there are weeds identified as noxious by state and county governments. Within federal, state and county lists, there are varying classes. Class A noxious weeds are not native to the state, are of limited distribution or are unrecorded in the state, but pose a serious threat to the state if allowed to grow. Class B noxious weeds are not native to the state, are of limited distribution or are unrecorded in a region of the state, but pose a serious threat to that region and seed production can be controlled in a calendar year. Class C are any other noxious weeds. You can find information about noxious weeds in your state in several places. Your county extension agent or department of agriculture office will have the information. In addition, all the government agencies have their lists on the Internet, many with photos to help in identification. Start with www.aphis.usda.gov and proceed from there. If you don't attempt to at least control the weed, you can be fined. Fines can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

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