Local hazards – poison ivy, sumac and oak

EVENT CANCELLED due to Hurricane Florence

We took a visit to the site and were amazed about numbers of healthy plants. Unfortunately some of these plants can cause problems. This page was created to increase awareness and if exposed some options for minimizing problems.

Poison Ivy:

What is is:

Poison ivy rash is caused by an allergic reaction to an oily resin called urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol). This oil is in the leaves, stems and roots of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Some people are not sensitive to Poison Ivy, others are, (and the more you get it the worse it gets.)

If you’ve ID’d it, and feel you have come in contact with it, wash your skin right away, unless you know you’re not sensitive to it. Washing off the oil may reduce your chances of getting a poison ivy rash. If you develop a rash, it can be very itchy and last for weeks.

How you get it:

Your skin has come in contact with Urushiol. Yes this can be transferred from your dogs fur to your skin.

What works for us:

If you KNOW you are allergic, and you KNOW you have gotten into it, what works for us:

Dish soap, a de-greaser, using a stiff washcloth and scrubbing friction to break apart the oils of the plant to wash it down the drain.  Lather head to toe, degrease with dish soap, wash clothes without other clothes with hot water to dissipate the grease of urushiol. Oils can stay active for 2 years, so don’t touch the dead plants.

See this video, skip to the 1.26 minute mark and hear how to remove the oils.

What Poison Ivy looks like:  Leaves of three, stay clear of me…

You may find it looking like this, with leaves in groups of 3, with smooth edges:

Or like this, with jagged edges – still with leaves in groups of 3:

Or perhaps climbing up a tree like this -still with leaves in groups of 3:

And maybe it even looks like a tree after climbing a few years:







Poison Sumac:

Poison Sumac is a small tree or large shrub with large attractive leaves and white fruits that could be used as an ornamental if it didn’t cause severe skin irritation in most people. Its smaller relatives with 3-parted leaves, Poison Ivyand Poison Oak, have similar irritating properties. In North Carolina Poison Sumac is fairly common in swamp edges and wet woods in the Coastal Plain. Formerly called Rhus vernix. Typically you see the top “leaves of three”, and down the branch a set of 3 or 4 leaves in parallel:


Do the same the treatment above using Dawn Soap plus a stiff scrub brush if you’ve been in contact with Poison Sumac.

Poison Oak:

Looks just like Poison Ivy – (“leaves of 3 let me be”), but the fuzzy berries seen in the center of the picture below are the distinguishing factor of a Poison Oak vs a Poison Ivy:







As with Poison Ivy or Poison Sumac, do the same the treatment above using Dawn Soap plus a stiff scrub brush if you’ve been in contact with Poison Sumac.

Say you didn’t know you were in it, you now have an allergic reaction and a miserable, itchy poison ivy rash, what are the possible treatments?


  • Scrub if you haven’t already: Use a degreasing dish soap and scrub the oils off that might still be there.
  • Over the counter creams and lotions may reduce symptoms.
  • Seek the advice of a dermatologist who may prescribe steroids should the reaction be a bad one.


Wear protective clothing. Wash clothes that have come in contact with the plant.  Prepare your own poison ivy kit, wash cloth, small bottle of Dawn, and some over the counter cream to reduce any symptoms encountered. And avoid the poison ivy area if you know you’re highly susceptible.