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Itch…Then Scratch, and Itch Some More. Local Vegetation that might be irritating you.

By Barbara Riordan

 So, you move here from up north so are probably familiar with Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Sumac. Then you start to learn how to garden in Southwest Florida. And then the itching starts again. Maybe there is no poison ivy insight so where does it come from?

There are many common plants, trees, palms and vines in our area that can cause irritating rashes to varying degrees. Let’s just point out some of them. Remember that we all react differently and to different degrees.

Mango trees are part of the poison ivy family so many people are allergic to the sap on the fruit but not the fruit itself.  The leaves, branches and even just touching the fruit or leaves can cause a poison ivy-like rash.  Sometimes it takes time for your body to become susceptible to it but it’s not uncommon. Our advice is to pick up the fruit carefully, put it in the sink and wash it with soap before peeling it.

Other trees that can cause problems include Brazilian Pepper (which is invasive so KILL it), Cashew, Gingko Biloba and Barbados Nut. Smaller palms and shrubs include Oleander, Sago, Angel and Devils Trumpet and Coonti. Vines include Japanese Honeysuckle (also invasive), Carolina Jasmine (also called yellow jessamine), Trumpet Creeper, Rosary Pea and Blue Plumbago.

Other plants include Allamanda, Lantana and anything that leaks a milky sap such as Florida Holly, Crown of Thorns, Pencil Cactus and Poinsettia. No doubt there are more. This is just a partial list to get you thinking.

For those of you who are hardy mulchers, remember that when you are in your yard and turning up your mulch you are also stirring up the no-see-ums living in there so spray your feet and legs to protect yourself from their bites.

No matter your gardening skills or knowledge, remember we have wonderful flora in our area but some can cause irritation so be careful.

Check out the internet for more information: University of Florida Extension Service for Lee County (http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lee/) or join the Pine Island Garden Club (http://www.pineislandgardenclub.org).

*Lantana: You’ll see it in different colors, sometimes yellow dominates. And everyone should avoid mango! Even picking up the dead leaves can cause a body rash so use gloves.