What Is Poison Oak & Getting Rid of It

This troublemaker is usually associated with its penchant for causing skin rash, which is caused by an

What is Poison Oak?

This troublemaker is usually associated with its penchant for causing skin rash, which is caused by an oil called urushiol. But what's often overlooked is that poison oak can put a stranglehold on weakened areas in your yard.

What does it look like?

Depending on where it grows, poison oak can take the form of a vine or a shrub. Either way, it loves sunlight and water, but can also handle dry climates. Its leaves usually have three scalloped leaflets each, and during the fall the leaves turn from dark green to a rich, red color. Its small, whitish-green flowers sprout where the leaves join the stem.

How to get rid of it

Give your landscape some love- Poison oak will rarely infest a well-kept yard. Feed and mow regularly to keep your landscape in tiptop shape.

Give a professional a call- Sometimes, poison oak is just too much for one person to handle. If the infestation is widespread, leave the removal to the professionals.

A seedy strategy

Infestations begin when birds disperse the weed's seeds in your yard. (Thanks a lot, birds!) Poison oak flowers in the spring, but its seeds can be spread year-round. Once it's in the ground, poison oak develops a tough root system and spreads with an extensive network of underground stems called rhizomes.

Play it safe with poison oak

Even after the plant is dead, its leaves can transmit rash-inducing oil to your skin. To make sure that doesn't happen, here are some precautions you can take:

  • Wash anything that came in contact with the plant, including garden tools, shoes, and clothes.
  • Keep your pets out of infested areas. The last thing you want is for Fluffy to carry the oil into your home.
  • If you come into contact with poison oak, immediately rinse your skin with isopropyl alcohol and lots of cold water. It's always best to contact your doctor.
  • Whatever you do, don't burn the weeds. Urushiol particles can spread through the air and cause serious respiratory problems.