What’s the Purpose of Poison Ivy?

Toxicodendron radicans, also known as poison ivy, is a native plant. While I am not going to recommend anyone go out and find this plant to collect and put in their own landscape, I do want to point out some benefits of it so maybe we can all appreciate it from a distance.

While many people have an allergic reaction to the urushiol oil found all over poison ivy including it’s roots, animals and bugs do not suffer this same reaction. It has many wildlife benefits. For instance, birds who eat it’s white berries during fall migration and when there isn’t much else around for food in the winter gain much from this plant. Birds also find a good source of protein in any bugs crawling around on the vine. Smaller mammals and deer eat the foliage, twigs, and berries as well.

This plant is very visible this week for one primary reason: it’s fall color is spectacular. It can be seen from a good distance away twining up trunks of trees which still bear green foliage but now have bright yellows, oranges, and reds highlighting their trunks. All along Grant’s Trail is a good place to see this right now (without getting very close.)

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