Bumper crop of itchy, scratchy poison ivy in South Okanagan

Image Credit: iStock

PENTICTON - There’s a good reason for outdoor enthusiasts to stay on the trail when hiking in the South Okanagan this spring.

Cyclists and pedestrians using the Kettle Valley Railway trail are noticing an abundance of poison ivy this year, particularly on the trail between Penticton and Kaleden.

Regional District Okanagan Similkameen parks coordinator Justin Shuttleworth says hikers and bikers need to mindful of the nasty plant, which seems to be particularly nasty along the unimproved portion of trail between Penticton and Kaleden.

“We manage it and try to control it as best we can, but the plant is, by nature, difficult to manage. We encourage people to stay on the trail, even though it is narrow in certain sections,” Shuttleworth says.

From Banbury Green south to Kaleden’s Pioneer Park, Shuttleworth says there are areas of high density poison ivy. He said the plant normally has reddish leaves during the early spring, but they should be in full green by now, noting some patches on the KVR are four to five feet tall.

The easiest way to identify the plant is by the fact the leaves grow in groups of three.

“It’s a common plant in the Okanagan, so it’s best to be aware and mindful it’s out there,” he says.

Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society coordinator Lisa Scott says poison ivy is a native plant that likes moist areas, so expect to find it along lake shores, in wetlands and ditches. She said approximately 85 per cent of the population are allergic to the plant.

“It has been bad along the trails the last couple of years,” Scott says.

A chemical in the plant known as urushiol is present even in winter and can cause people to react. The chemical transfers easily, for example, should a dog walk through a patch of poison ivy and get the chemical on its feet, that could then be transferred to other people or things, Scott cautions.

The City of Kamloops introduced goats, which eat poison ivy, in some city parks to help control weeds. That program has been so effective the goats were recently brought back for a fourth year.

Poison Ivy can best be identified by it's characteristic three leaf grouping.
Poison Ivy can best be identified by it's characteristic three leaf grouping.
Image Credit: Contributed

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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