Turning a Backyard Menace into Money

July 18, 2008 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

Today I stumbled upon a NY Times article about an entrepreneur in Philidelphia who is starting a business based on controlling the growth of Poison Ivy. It interested me because my son develops a horrible rash just from looking at the noxious weed. I have been looking for ways to control it on my own property so he doesn’t spend most of his summer months soaked in Rustox and fighting the urge to scratch his skin off.

Umar Mycka, a horticulturist with 35 years of experience at the Philadelphia Zoo, started poisonivyhorticulturalist.com to aid in the removal of poison ivy for people who don’t want to get anywhere near the stuff.

“They come to me like this,” Mr. Mycka said, holding his forearms out, as if covered with the red rash or blisters. “Sometimes their head is out to here,” he added, alluding to the swelling that can occur in acute cases, which may require steroids or even hospitalization. “When it’s that bad, people say, oh, it must have been poison sumac or poison oak,” he said. “It’s not. It’s just that they got it under optimum conditions.”

Mycka tries to educate his clients about what poison ivy looks like and how it grows, including its dispersal by birds that survive the winter on its white berries.

One of the most interesting things I learned by reading the article was that poison ivy thrives on carbon-dioxide (CO2). Between 1999 and 2004, researchers at Duke University studied the effects of greenhouse gases on the weed. In the study, test plots were infused with varying levels of CO2. In doing so researchers discovered that poison ivy not only grew more rapidly, but also produced a more toxic form of urushiol, the resin that causes its rash.

I guess my efforts to cut it back with my brush hog were essentially a futile effort as the exhaust from my tractor was basically providing it with more food for growth. Maybe I should get a goat instead…

By briansrapier


Entry filed under: Environment, Informational, Research, Starting a Business, Tips. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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