But while the visual display is stunning, I have learned to appreciate this transition for another equally important reason. A couple of years ago, I learned that one of the first plants to change the color of its foliage this time of year is poison ivy!
According to Wikipedia…
"Poison ivy is a type of allergenic plant in the genus Toxicodendron native to Asia and North America. Formerly considered a single species, Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivies are now generally treated as a complex of three separate species: Toxicodendron radicans, Toxicodendron rydbergii, and Toxicodendron orientale.
They are well known for causing urushiol-induced contact dermatitis, an itchy, irritating, and sometimes painful rash, in most people who touch it. The rash is caused by urushiol, a clear liquid compound in the plant's sap. They are variable in appearance and habit, and despite its common name, it is not a "true" ivy (Hedera), but rather a member of the cashew and pistachio family (Anacardiaceae).
T. radicans is commonly eaten by many animals, and the seeds are consumed by birds, but poison ivy is most often thought of as an unwelcome weed."
I’ll say "Amen" to the very last statement! While I myself was never very allergic to either poison ivy or poison oak in my formative years, it’s an entirely different story as of late. These days, most any contact with either species will pretty much result in a rash of some sort.
What is more, the ensuing days of suffering have given me a newfound appreciation for my poor wife, my youngest son, and multiple of my grandsons, all of whom have suffered from being allergic to these plant species since birth.
And for this reason, all the above parties have learned to appreciate such little ditties as "Leaves of three, let it be!" and "Hairy vine, no friend of mine".
Given that my loved ones and (now I myself) suffer whenever coming into contact with plants of the genus Toxicodendron, it behooves me to rid our property of as much of it as possible. The only problem is that I am no horticulturist, and cannot always easily recognize poisonous plants when I see them.
I could just take the weed-eater and whack down every vine I encounter. But to do so is to run the risk of taking out vines I value, such as wild muscadines and wild honeysuckle. And all of this leads me to my point...
Come the fall of the year, poison ivy can no longer hide! I now know what to look for. Once its leaves burst forth in all their splendor, they have tipped their hand. Their days are numbered as a result; because I now know exactly which vines to attack with my weed-eater. And believe me, attack I will!
Poison Ivy is a serious matter! It can inflict tremendous pain and suffering on an unwary soul. But I no longer have to fear it. Why? Because I have found its weakness; which is its pride.
I do not know exactly why it chooses to be the first among all local plants to put its fall foliage on display. Perhaps it is so confident in its ability to intimidate all who are allergic to it that it chooses to be a bit braggadocios, as if taunting its victims by proclaiming "Here I am; and guess what? You can’t touch this!"
No, but my weed-eater can! And it doesn’t’ have to climb a tree to where you are to reach you. All I have to do is to see where the poison is growing and then I can use it to cut you the poison off at its base! I don’t have to touch it! I just have to cut it off from its source! And thereafter, it is done for! It has strutted its last fall and put on its last exhibition!
As I thought about this, I was reminded of what the Bible tells us in Proverbs 16:18, where it says: "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." How many a poison ivy plant on my property has suffered such a fate?!
More to the point, how many a person has suffered such a fate, all because he or she chose to put on an ostentatious display while confident in their arrogant assumption of invincibility?!
Be careful, my friends! Whenever you think you are untouchable, you may prove to be the most vulnerable!
Note the picture of poison ivy in fall coloration on each page.