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Remove poison ivy by spraying with brush killer

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Question: I found poison ivy in my flower bed. I did a little searching and found it in a large clump in my woods and growing up some tall trees. In the trees, all that is accessible is the trunk of the vine that is about two inches in diameter. In the clump in the woods, there are lots of good plants intermingled within the poison ivy. What is the best way to remove it all?

Answer: During the summer many people are in the woods and they often encounter poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac, but many people are surprised to find them in their own gardens. Birds often carry the seeds from these plants and deposit them in hedges, under trees and even in urban areas.

Bayer makes the Bayer Advanced Brush Killer Plus systemic herbicide. The nice thing about it is that it soaks into the plant and kills the root system. It can take from one to six weeks to work, but that beats having to wade through the poison ivy to repeatedly spray. Read the label of any herbicide you use to make sure poison ivy is listed on the label.

For the poison ivy growing on the tree trunks, cut the vine trunk off down low and then again on a ladder above where people might contact it in the future and remove the middle section. The rest of the upper vine will die and remain in place out of reach until someone cuts the tree down. Coat the end of the remaining stump with the herbicide.

If the roots send up new growth, it will be easy to spray. It is possible that an old mature vine with a large root system won't just re-sprout next to the tree trunk, the roots can sprout new stems up where ever they are growing, which can be many feet away from the tree, so look for new sprouts all over the area.

In the wooded area, you can spray the leaves of the poison ivy with as much care as possible to not get the good plants. Waiting until next spring will allow you to spray the poison ivy as it begins to sprout in the spring, before many other plants start to grow.

It is the urushiol oil of the poison ivy plant that causes skin irritation and it is found in all parts of the plant. If it is just washed in water, the oil might float around and not rinse away. Anything the oil contacts in the future could transfer the oil to someone's skin. If you wash the skin with soap and water, the oil will go away, but the appearance of the irritated skin may become visible later. Zanfel is an ointment that bonds to urushiol and removes it from the skin. A tube of Zanfel is much easier to carry in the woods than soap and water.

Scientists are working on a spray that will indicate where the oil is when lit up by ultraviolet light. Until then, you will need to wash all clothes that may have contact with poison ivy.

Throw the cuttings away in a sealed bag. Never burn these plants or logs with the vine wrapped on it. The sap can evaporate into the smoke and coat other things (like lawn furniture) that will give you a rash. Even worse, you could get the oily smoke on your skin or even breathe it in to your throat and lungs.

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at


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