Poison Ivy Gets Pumped Up

By Charlie Nardozzi

One of the scourges of summer is dermatitis from contact with poison ivy. The leaves, branches, and roots of this perennial vining weed contain an oil (urushiol) that, once it penetrates your skin, can cause itching and scratching for weeks. Worse yet, the oil remains active on clothes, tools, and gloves and can reinfect you even when you're not working in the garden.

As if poison ivy isn't bad enough already, researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, predict that due to increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, poison ivy will be growing even bigger and faster. For the past six years, researchers have monitored poison ivy plants growing with present CO2 levels and those given artificially increased levels to mimic future predictions. They have found that poison ivy with high CO2 levels doubled its growth rate and produced more of the pain-inducing oil than control plants.

Researchers suspect that all woody vines can put the increased CO2 to use in producing more leaves and vines because they don't have trunks or other supports that need a share of the carbon.

For more information about this research, go to: Science News.

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