by Savannah Putnam
For all of my friends who have wondered why my neck has a red and splotchy patch but were too polite to ask why, I have an announcement to make: I have poison ivy! If you aren’t allergic to poison ivy or never go tromping around outdoors, it is similar to getting a mosquito bite that never stops being itchy, is always red, ugly, and bumpy, and lasts for about a month. I spent the first week after I accepted my misfortune complaining, until I was overcome with the amazing realization that I didn’t know where I had gotten it.
Normally when I get poison ivy I can pinpoint a time where I went on a specific hike and I was exposed. This time, however, I realized that I couldn’t do that, as I had literally been exposed to poison ivy at least three times a week since school had began. On Tuesdays I serve as a teaching assistant and drive a vanload of ecology students out to prairies and forests full of poison ivy to conduct their lab data-collection. On Thursdays I spend three hours exploring prairies full of poison ivy for my prairie-identification class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have dendrology labs, where we learn different trees and shrubs and then run around campus and the forests near campus finding examples of everything we have learned. On the forth week of class we actually learned the scientific name of poison ivy, which is Rhus radicans, and had samples of it in the classroom for the rest of the month [fun fact: have you ever gotten itchy lips after eating a mango? It’s because mangos are in the same family (Anacardiaceae) as poison ivy! Avoid the skin where the oils are next time and you’ll be in the clear]. Lastly, on the weekends I go out hiking and collecting tree samples for my “forest insect and disease ecology” class, where we have to find and diagnose sick trees.
While I am still upset that I have poison ivy in such an inconvenient and unsightly location, it has made me realize how lucky I am that I go to a school that allows me to learn by exploring. That being said, I am keeping my fingers crossed that all future learning does not include getting more poison ivy.