Most of us are familiar with poison ivy and know to avoid its shiny three leaf plants and vines, but not everyone recognizes even poison ivy and knows the painful itching that can occur from contact with this plant, especially those who have never seen it.
We have many visitors from Quebec here, and apparently Quebec is far enough north so that they are poison ivy free. A few years ago, we were walking the Marginal Way here in Ogunquit, and coming around a corner in the path, saw a couple changing their baby’s diaper in poison ivy foliage.
My high school French is, well, basic, but my wife was able to explain to them that they should wash their baby with soap and water as soon as possible.
Another time we saw a French speaking couple gathering poison ivy leaves in the fall – the leaves had turned shades of fall colors and they were beautiful – but potentially a menace to them.
(Note to self: Learn how to say, “That is poison ivy. It will give you a very itchy rash,” in [understandable] French.)
Poison ivy is not the only poison wild plant in Maine. Our state representative alerted us to Giant Hogweed. Giant Hogweed looks a little like Queen Anne’s lace on super steroids. Growing 12-14 feet high, its sap can cause painful blisters.
You have to check out the leaves though, since other plants resemble it, including a similar, but smaller plant, the Water Hemlock, potentially nastier. We saw a plant we felt for sure was Giant Hogweed, but looking at the leaves, we realized it was something else.
Both Giant Hogweed and the Water Hemlock grow in damp and wet areas, so if you have one of those near your home or where you walk, look for this silent, but nasty menace – and poison ivy as well.
Those are just three silent, but itchy and possibly dangerous plants found here in Maine; another time we will look at others.