OFFBEAT: Poison ivy penetrates from films to reader personal stories

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-08-07T00:00:00Z 2013-08-07T18:15:07Z OFFBEAT: Poison ivy penetrates from films to reader personal storiesBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Before actor Michael J. Fox jumped from television to the big screen with a pair of hit films in 1985, including "Back to the Future" and "Teen Wolf," he was stuck with "Poison Ivy," a made-for-TV film also released the same year.

After the launch of "Family Ties" on NBC in 1982, Fox enjoyed a quick career boost and the transition to film star started on the small screen in this itchy offering with him cast as camp counselor Dennis Baxter. Baxter works at a boys' summer camp called Camp Pinewood, where he falls in love with the new camp nurse, Rhonda, played by Nancy McKeon. Adam Baldwin plays his arch-rival camp counselor.

Everyone seems to have his or her personal "Poison Ivy" story, even Hollywood stars.

A column I published last Thursday about the topic and my own "from scratch" first time encounter this summer, prompted readers to write and call in with a bumper crop of their own stories.

Pass the calamine lotion, because here are a few to share, including this first note from Gene Clifford, an outdoors writer for Hoosier Outdoors Writers and The Gad-a-bout Newspaper.

"Dear Phil: Your recent article about Poison Ivy could have had a few more points in it. The vines of Poison Ivy are still volatile/contagious, five years after removal. Never burn the vines, as the smoke contains the oils that will contact your skin. I write for three outdoor newspapers and have written about this demon, as I too, am susceptible, and without fail, I get some every spring when out in the woods turkey hunting. - - Gene Clifford"

"Hi Phil - - I read your column about Poison Ivy and found it very interesting. I was especially intrigued by the part about how deer love to eat the leaves of this plant and it doesn't seem to have any effect on them. I walk my dog Bingo at Taltree Arboretum and Gardens in Valparaiso and he loves to also eat the leaves on the Poison Ivy plants. He's done it for sometime now, and it doesn't seem to have any effect on him either. What a strange world we live in. Thank you for your columns. - - Patrick Bates, Valparaiso"

Thank you for sharing your story Patrick. As mentioned in last week's column, besides deer, birds are also fond of eating the berries from the Poison Ivy plants, which is one of the ways the plant spreads since birds travel such great distances. Humans are usually credited as "the only animal" adversely affected by the oil in the plants, which cause rash, blisters, irritation and scratching. Livestock and goats also routinely eat Poison Ivy without an adverse reaction. (I'm told some lab rabbits and monkeys have shown signs of mild irritation, but nothing like what humans suffer.) Bees even use the pollen from Poison Ivy to make their honey!

But be warned Patrick, and all readers, pets like cats and dogs who might walk through a patch of Poison Ivy can get untraceable amounts of the oil on fur, and when touched by their owners, cause terrible outbreaks. One reader from Crown Point even told me she recently used an old pair of garden gloves that had come in contact with Poison Ivy a year earlier, and had the rash develop again on her fingers. The oil can even stay on a wooden handle of garden shears for years after the initial contact, causing later problems.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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