Something I have wanted to talk about for a long time is poisonous plants. Since I started hiking I've been looking for a common plant around here called Poison Ivy. I know generally what it looks like, but positively identifying it can be difficult sometimes.
The plants you see in these pictures could be poison ivy or they could be another plant called boxelder, which is actually a non-poisonous tree and is also common here. Every picture I see confuses me more. As far as I know, young boxelder trees resemble poison ivy more than any other non-poisonous plant.
As some of you know, I can get confused trying to identify certain plants. That's not unusual for anyone though. Most people would not be able to tell the difference between these two plants. There is one very easy way, but I don't recommend it at all. If you touch poison ivy you'll end up with a very bad rash in about a week. The boxelder is safe.
While I was visiting one of my favorite nature parks yesterday, I was talking with one of the park officials I happened to meet on the hiking trail, and the subject of poison ivy came up. She told me that the place was just full of the stuff, especially right next to where we were standing!
She pointed out a few of the plants beside the trail, identifying them as poison ivy. One of my pictures here is one of the plants she pointed out. She also mentioned the boxelder trees and how confusing it could be. So why would anyone take a chance and leave the trail in that area?
This is one of the main reasons I tell beginners to stay on the trails. That includes your kids! I once saw a boy that actually rolled around in unidentified plants on trails like this. I tried to stop him but his parents were ignorant about such things and only thought it was funny, so I could do nothing further. Hopefully he was unhurt.
If you want some really good information on poison ivy you can go to this link. It also shows pictures of poison ivy, boxelder, and other plants that have been confused with poison ivy. Places like this, along with some of the park officials I've talked with, have helped me get a better understanding about these plants.
Speaking of the park officials, if you happen to be at a place where they have people like this working there, they may have some very valuable knowledge to share. If you're polite, you can learn all sorts of things from them. I had a great conversation with the woman I met yesterday. She even told me the best place to find deer in the park this time of year.
I hope this story teaches you something. Also, are there any of you who might know more about poison ivy? I'd really like to know if these plants are the real thing. Any of you who don't know, don't touch them! I know I won't.