Expressing a love of history and a passion for nature.
In Praise of Poison Ivy
As a science writer, I’m fascinated by plants and animals that are unloved—like dandelions, tarantulas, and what is perhaps the world’s most hated plant—poison ivy.
Millions of people are allergic to poison ivy, which contains one of the most potent toxins on earth. But the astounding paradox is that poison ivy is a plant of immense ecological value. It’s a plant of a powerful plant with a dramatic history and an increasingly important role in the American landscape. For me, poison ivy has served as a lens through which to take a closer look at the green world, and the changes and challenges that face our planet.
Leaflets Three, Let it Be!: The Story of Poison Ivy is a children’s picture book, designed to help the youngest outdoor explorers both appreciate and avoid poison ivy.
In Praise of Poison Ivy is a nonfiction book for adults, which explores the vices and virtues of a powerful plant with a dramatic history and an increasingly important role in the American landscape.
Wild mammals from mice to moose, honeybees and butterflies, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, robins, and bluebirds all defy poison ivy’s nasty nature and feast on its leaves and fruit. Cardinals are even known to line their nests with fuzzy poison ivy rootlets.
Poison ivy and humans have long had a passionate love/hate affair. This book follows the trail of poison ivy as it encounters an engaging cast of historical characters, including explorers, scientists, entrepreneurs and royalty—who all learned about poison ivy the hard way. Despite its irritating qualities, the magnificent scarlet-and-gold autumn foliage of poison ivy has been showcased in the gardens of presidents and kings.
The book includes informational sidebars on identifying poison ivy, how to cope with that insanely itchy rash, and “green” methods of coping with the plant.
Leaflets Three, Let it Be!: The Story of Poison Ivy
A book about poison ivy? Anita Sanchez writes of the surprising virtues of the despised plant in her new children’s book, published by Boyds Mills Press.
Beautiful illustrations by Robin Brickman highlight the amazing variety of wildlife that use poison ivy for food and shelter. And no, they don’t get itchy–only humans are affected by the toxic three leaves. Bees buzz in poison ivy flowers, gathering poison ivy nectar. Cardinals use poison ivy rootlets to line their nests. Insects roll themselves up in a snug blanket of poison ivy leaves while toads hunt and spiders spin webs in the shade. And birds by the dozens come flocking to a poison ivy feast of winter berries.
Anita’s other published books include Mr. Lincoln’s Chair: The Shakers and Their Quest for Peace, The Invasion of Sandy Bay, and The Teeth of the Lion: The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion.
That’s where life shoves through, grows to the sun, flourishes.
I stop every time I’m in a parking lot, a schoolyard, a graveyard–anywhere–and see what plants are growing. There’s unintended beauty in the untended places. I look to see what’s pushing through the cracks in the pavement. What the mowers have missed. What the weed whackers have failed to whack.
So come on this journey with me. Examine and rejoice in that which no one else notices.
Stop by often to see what’s going on in the parking lot! Read Unmowed Blog posts here.
A published author and professional educator, Anita Sanchez has more than twenty years of experience in providing classes and hands-on, participatory programs to a wide range of audiences.
The former director of Educational Programming at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, she has presented classes in schools throughout New England and New York State, and given workshops at the American Museum of Natural History, Colonial Williamsburg, Harvard Natural History Museum, the New York State Museum, and many other libraries, bookstores, museums, and classrooms.
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The shortening days seem a metaphor for the sadness of the world.
But the solstice is coming. Soon the days will begin to lengthen, as light re-enters the world.
Walking along Philadelphia’s old cobbled streets, I feel like I should be asking voters to elect Thomas Jefferson or John Adams instead of Hillary Clinton.
Box elder bugs: unwelcome trick-or-treaters. They might creep you out, but they don’t suck blood, bite children, cause disease, or make the dog itch.
Purple coneflower is a native American plant, a blast of purple petals surrounding a spiky central cone. Echinacea comes from a Greek word meaning hedgehog.
This gangly, strange-looking character is pokeweed. I bought it at a native plant sale a few years ago, but it never sent up more than a few floppy leaves, and I’d almost given up hope.
Poison ivy. An amazingly versatile plant, it does indeed grow just about everywhere. Beaches. Forests. Bayous. Even in Manhattan’s Central Park.
Honey locust, in Manhattan’s Central Park, has thorns. Big thorns. Not just little prickers, great huge whomping thorns, six inches long and iron hard.