Can you get a poison ivy rash from firewood?

For The Baltimore Sun

My husband got a bad case of poison ivy, and the only thing we can figure is he got it from handling firewood. Some of the trunks had vines. How can we tell which vines have poison ivy, since the vines don’t have leaves anymore?

Poison ivy vines cling closely to the trunk and can have aerial roots, which gives them a hairy appearance, especially older vines. Young vines have fewer adhesive roots and the roots may be harder to spot. Look closely, as they travel up bark fissures. On the other hand, our native Virginia creeper hangs loosely along the trunk. Non-native invasive vines, such as oriental bittersweet, Asian wisterias and honeysuckle, hang from branches or wind around the branches and trunks. Check your firewood for poison ivy before you burn it, because even the smoke can contain the urushiol chemical that causes inflammation and can be inhaled. Search poison ivy on the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center website for more information.

Work on my house is finally done, now what do I do about the muddy mess of a lawn? It’s too late to plant grass seed, isn’t it?

Spread straw or erosion fabric to cover bare soil and prevent erosion. Otherwise, you have a few possibilities but no guarantees. Check the forecast. If warm weather is predicted for a few weeks, perennial rye can germinate in as little as three to five days, and germinate and grow at temperatures as low as the upper 30’s. But — and it’s a big “but” — it will not grow much, and it will be so immature that it can be damaged by freezing temperatures, especially when there is no snow cover to insulate it. Sod is a dicey option but may work in a mild winter. Spring is the second best time to seed, from early March through April. You’ll need to overseed next fall.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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