Poison Ivy Tree

Far from me to be an expert in plants and wildlife—for that, hunt down the many, many blogs, articles, and newspaper features by my wife Mary Ann Melton—but I’m spending a lot more time that usual doing yard work on our property.  This year, I’m seeing things that I’ve missed before.

Just yesterday, I glanced over at the trunk of a Black Walnut tree and saw what almost looked like an anaconda.  But I quickly saw that it was the trunk of a poison ivy plant that, long ago, had climbed up the trunk of the walnut tree as a vine and had gradually taken over the old tree.

Now, I’ve been fighting poison ivy at our place for years, not because any of our family is allergic to the plant, but because it’s a nuisance vine that’s a parasite on many trees. It’s a never-ending battle to keep them under control. I know our neighbors had brought in goats to roam their place to eat out all the undergrowth, poison ivy included, but the fencing issues alone kept the goat option from my serious contention.

But this one poison ivy—I’d call it a tree if it stood on it’s own—must have been feeding it’s seeds to the birds for years.  I was instantly ready to cut it down.  I grabbed the electric branch-trimmer (an 8-inch chainsaw on a pole) and daisy-chained five heavy duty extension cords from the house down to the tree.  And then nothing worked.

Walking the length of the combined cords, I couldn’t find anything wrong and daylight was fading.  Under the assumption that I shouldn’t be handling dangerous power tools while I was tired in poor lighting, I put it on the next day’s to-do list.

So, mid morning, I rechecked the daisy chain of cords and nothing was wrong.  The electric chainsaw fired right up.  In seconds, I’d cut the poison ivy trunk in two places and collected the middle piece for further inspection.

Just as I’d expected, there were growth rings, twenty-two of them at first glance.  This poison ivy plant had been growing and seeding my place for more than two decades, and it took a time like this for me to notice that it existed.

I’ll be looking for any more grandfather poison ivy plants in the future, and I actually have a glimmer of hope that maybe I can get the infestation under control.  If not, at least it keeps me busy trying.