Can Poison Ivy "Choke" a Tree?

By Caileen  |  Thursday, January 14, 2016  |  ,  |  Leave comment

Poison Ivy Tree

As you may know, poison ivy and oak plants can cleverly grow as ground cover, bushes, or vines. However, they are most often found climbing trees (poison ivy, especially). For many gardeners, strictly abiding by the saying, "leaves of 3, let them be," and choosing to allow the vines to climb, is the preferred option. But, others want to know, will allowing the vines to climb the trees eventually "choke" them?

According to garden and lawn care specialists, poison ivy doesn't actually "choke" or kill the trunk of a tree. However, as the vines continue to grow up into the leaves of a tree, they can block the foliage, robbing them of sunlight and essential nutrients needed for growth and sustainability; it's this affect that can eventually lead to stunted growth and/or death of a tree. Therefore, it is best to remove the vines if possible.

While poison plants can complicate lawn and garden care no matter the season, if you plan to remove climbing vines from your trees, it may be best to do so in the fall or winter. Why? During the fall and winter months, the vines have likely dropped their leaves. Thus, eliminating the chance of being brushed by leaves as you make your way up the tree in an attempt to remove the toxic plant. Now, that doesn't mean that you can't still succumb to a rash. In fact, urushiol (the rash-causing oil) remains active throughout the year, and is found on all parts of the plant including the leaves, vines, stems, & roots. So, you'll still need to follow proper precautions when handling poison ivy/oak plants even in the cooler months:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants
  • Never forgo gloves
  • Do your best to avoid the skin on your wrists being exposed (many will duct tape long sleeves to their gloves, or use rubber bands)
  • Once the plants are removed, place them in a tightly sealed plastic bag for disposal
  • Be sure to thoroughly clean skin, clothing, & tools with a cleanser designed to remove poison oak and poison ivy oils such as, Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser
    • Tip: even if the skin wasn't directly exposed, it doesn't hurt to wash it just in case!

Until next time,


Live life. Get outdoors.™

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