Itching for flora... September 21, 2007
Fall is upon us and leaves are starting to show their beautiful colors. It is also a time plants set fruits and berries, which contain their seed and hopes for propagation. This beautiful native plant has it all: glossy red leaves and clusters of white berries. It is a great example of a native plant, that many birds adore, but most folks reject.
Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans is a prime example of the general rule to avoid white berries. You should probably avoid everything else about this plant as well. Many people have allergic reactions from urushiol, the toxin contained in the oil from the leaves, stems and roots. It can create a reaction from a mild rash to a severe condition demanding medical attention. This is a plant you should respect, and probably avoid until you know your tolerances.
However, as loathed as is it by some people, it does have a valuable place in the native landscape. It is a primary food in the winter months, and you may note that is especially attractive to woodpeckers. So before you totally write this one off as a plant only Cruella De Vil would harbor, remember there is place in nature for plants we may not seek to cultivate at home.