June 13, 2018 – Enjoying conservation and natural areas throughout our watershed is a great way to get exercise, relax, rejuvenate, spend time with family and friends and enjoy the many benefits of being in nature. It is also important to remember though that the best way to enjoy your time outdoors is to make sure you stay on marked trails.
Conservation Areas protect forests, wetlands, plant life and wildlife, and improve the overall health of our watersheds, including the quality and supply of our water resources such as recharge areas.
One of the native, non-invasive plants that can be found through the majority of conservation and natural areas is poison ivy.
Poison ivy is a straggling or climbing woody vine that's well known for its ability to cause an itchy rash.
Poison ivy can be found in every province except Newfoundland. It grows on sandy, stony, or rocky shores, and sprouts in thickets, in clearings, and along the borders of woods and roadsides. This glossy perennial can spread by seed or by producing shoots from its extensive underground stems.
“Our conservation staff make sure our marked trails are clear of poison ivy so families and individuals can enjoy our natural spaces,” explained Director of Stewardship and Conservation Areas, Kristie Virgoe. “But when people or their unleashed pets go off the marked trails they are susceptible to getting poison ivy.”
The leaves of poison ivy have three pointed leaflets. The middle leaflet has a much longer stalk than the two side ones. The leaves vary greatly in size, from 8 to 55 mm in length. They are reddish when they appear in the spring, turn green during the summer, and become various shades of yellow, orange, or red in the fall.
“Conservation areas are for people to enjoy, but are also intended to protect the natural landscape,” said Ms. Virgoe. “Poison ivy is a native plant that is part of the food chain for a lot of the wildlife that lives within our watershed. Deer, rabbits and birds are just some of the wildlife that relies on poison ivy.
“We welcome and encourage people to come and enjoy our conservation and natural areas,” continued Ms. Virgoe. “But we ask visitors to remain on the marked trails, to ensure their pets are leashed, and that they dispose of their pet waste and garbage appropriately when they leave. We all have a responsibility and role to play in protecting our environment, our conservation areas and our natural areas.”