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imagesBeyond the lawns and manicured gardens of our island paradise lurks the evil menace, the Ivy known as toxicodendron radicans. Even it’s name screams RUN. RUN as fast as you can the other way!!!  Poison Ivy. I hate poison ivy. In fact I know it hates me back. From my earliest recollection it has been a plague that finds it’ s way to me.  I only need to look at it and it finds a way to get me. According to The Ohio State Department of Agriculture, one hundred year old dried specimens have still caused dermatitis to those scientists willing to handle it in labs. You can’t really seem to kill it, and burning it only spreads it further. It is in every county in the State of Ohio. Worse yet in Europe they actually cultivate it and sell it as an ornamental plant!

How did it get here? Did the Native Americans know it was here? Perhaps they did, but did not share that fact with the French farmers that started to come here in the 1700’s. No wonder the first French farmers referred to this island as the Il de Serpent, they were trying to warn others coming here to stay away!

Let’s go back to the summer of 1813, when Captain Perry brought his men here to prepare for the soon to follow battle of Lake Erie. Did he have any botany experience? Perhaps he warned his men “Leaflets three, let it be — berries white, poisonous site”. Imagine what might have happened if all his sailors had ivy rashes when they set sail for the Battle of Lake Erie. It would be a wonder that they won at all.

Imagine after spending months here on the island, they certainly had to have discovered its ill effects. They must have heeded his warning, or they would probably all be itching non-stop between canon loads. Thankfully Perry’s men must not have strayed much while on the island or we might be part of Ontario today.

Those were the early years of the evil ivy here on the island. Later in the 1850’s there had to be a seminal itchy moment in the history of our island that depended on the vision of just one man, Jose DeRivera. It took a person like DeRivera to see the greater potential of this unsettled area; to see the forest from the trees, the ivy from the vines.  Perhaps the battle against the evil vine started in earnest when DeRivera decided to visit South Bass for the first time.

What I really want to know is if he was aware this evil weed ran amuck here before he came. I know he got a good deal, but imagine your surprise after a day of clearing land and you get a rash head to toe. All those visits to Sandusky he made later on probably were to get more tinctures of dried Jewel weed, the only known natural remedy for the itching to sell to the workers coming here.

I bet he bought jewelweed seeds. That was probably his first real crop on the island. Of course today we do a good job of hiding the ivy in the back yards, along the garden beds. Lurking just below the surface. Like the of a bad hatch out of mosquitoes, Poison Ivy can take over a garden or flower bed in just a few weeks.

I love it when people say to me “I don’t get it, never have”. Well I have a yard full and you are invited to come over anytime to help me pull it out.


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