Poison Ivy Plants Are Getting Worse

Posted on January 18, 2023 at 8:16 AM by Tom Swegle

Graphic Of Poison Ivy Stating It Is Getting Worse

For those of us that enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, it is hard to ignore that the world is changing around us. Depending on where you live you may have noticed that the seasonal temperature and precipitation patterns from your youth no longer hold true. If you read a newspaper or watch the news on television, the word climate change is getting nearly impossible to ignore. Combined with the effects of deforestation, the great outdoors is under increasing stress in North America. But do you know what is thriving under these new conditions? Poison Ivy and its relatives. 

Back in 2006, the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published a scientific study that showed the combined effects of climate change and deforestation are benefiting poison ivy and its fellow urushiol-producing relatives poison oak and poison sumac. Projecting their findings into the future, we can all expect to see more poison ivy in more places, making protection against poison ivy rashes a greater concern when planning outdoor adventures.

What The Science Is Telling Us

Poison Ivy Loves CO2

Plants love carbon dioxide. As part of photosynthesis, they use it combined with sunlight and water to grow. One of the side effects of carbon dioxide pollution is that higher concentrations of this gas are enhancing plant growth. While this is partially good for beneficial plants such as trees or crops, it seems that poison ivy is really taking advantage of the extra supply. Poison ivy is not only growing larger but at a faster rate than any other woody plant in North America. We can expect to see more of the plant in the years ahead, and the plants will be faster growing and reach a larger size when mature.

Poison Ivy Loves Increased Temperatures

Large amounts of C02 have created another beneficial condition for poison ivy growth, increased temperatures. Carbon dioxide doesn’t just give poison ivy more “food” for photosynthesis, it is also making extending the growing season for the plant. Because carbon dioxide is a proven greenhouse gas, it has made our winters shorter. Poison ivy is not just able to grow faster, it is able to grow longer as well. As the greenhouse effect continues over the next several years, it will help poison ivy plants outcompete other plants and it will become more common across many parts of North America. 

Poison Ivy Has Less Competition

Aside from the extra boost C02 is giving the plant, poison ivy has less competition in many parts of the United States and Canada due to deforestation. Poison ivy is a bit of a pioneer when it comes to plants. In areas devastated by man-made or natural events, it is often one of the first plants to show up. With its growth now supercharged due to more available carbon dioxide and longer growing seasons, it is likely to become more dominant in areas that have been deforested. Its natural desire to climb other plants to reach for sunlight, combined with rapid growth is causing it to choke out younger trees and plants, hindering our efforts to reforest areas and restore habitat lost to logging. 

It Is Getting More Potent

Yes, there is one last bit of bad news. Not only are we going to be seeing more poison ivy plants in the future, but the plants are producing more concentrated levels of urushiol as well. The higher concentrations of this oily substance in poison ivy leaves mean we will need to take greater measures to protect our skin. Luckily, Outdoor Joe's® (formerly Rhus Tox for poison ivy), is here to help us enjoy our outdoor activities without the worry of coming home with a painful rash. 

The Good News: We Can Prevent Poison Ivy Rashes

The best poison ivy treatment is preventative poison ivy treatment. Despite all the bad news in this post, the good news is that Outdoor Joe's® (Former Rhus Tox) still works to prevent allergic dermatitis from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac exposure. This homeopathic remedy is safe and easy to take, providing long-lasting protection against allergic reactions to these plants. With spring rapidly approaching, the sooner you begin taking Outdoor Joe's®, the better your protection will be. Make not getting a poison ivy rash part of your 2023 resolution today, get your Outdoor Joe's®!