Terrible Beauty Underfoot

It's a great time of year for hiking at any of the delightful Ann Arbor city parks, as the leaves are changing color and the blood-thirsty insects finally die off. But don't forget about the terrible beauty underfoot: poison ivy, oak, and sumac. These silent pests are some of the first plants to change color, and they thrive where many a "step had trodden black." You can find poison ivy at the edge of footpaths, on the barks of trees, along fences, or at its most vicious, as autonomous shrubs that branch out laterally.

Although not everyone is allergic to the urushiol oil that causes the weepy, itchy blisters, it's important to be able to recognize the three leaf plants on sight, for the oil can seep into the skin within three minutes of contact. All parts of the plant -- including the roots and berries -- contain the poisonous oil, so be careful when digging in the garden as well. If you do make that unfortunate contact, it's best to wash the area immediately with plenty of soap and water. For more information on the poisonous trio, try the Health and Wellness Resource Center database available on aadl.org.