How to get rid of poison oak plants
Posted by mandyf on March 19, 2013
It’s understandable you would want to know how to get rid of poison oak plants when they invade your space, it’s a nasty little plant that can absolutely ruin your time outdoors. Poison oak is an allergen which secretes an oil called urushiol the same as poison ivy and sumac. Poison oak may appear in one of four forms, vines, bushes, creepers, or as individual plants. As soon as you spot it growing it is time to eradicate which takes some care and the proper equipment to minimize the odds you contact the urushiol oil and contract it’s well known itchy rash.
One of the most important things to remember when removing poison oak is to be prepared. Wear clothing which covers as much of your skin as possible, heavy gardening gloves are an absolute must. Just to be safe it is a good idea to buy Technu soap before you start. If you know your skin has come in contact with urushiol oil it takes about three minutes to an hour for it to bind with skin so you do have a chance to get it off your flesh. Technu soap is specifically designed to remove Toxicodendron oils and this is your best bet to avoid a breakout if you do come in contact with urushiol oil. Don’t bother trying to use gas, kerosene, or turpentine, these will do more harm than good.
Poison oak has a really strong root system so simply cutting away the portion you can see is not going to kill the plant, it’s just going to keep coming back time and again, and beware the root system has the oil as well so don’t handle it without gloves on. The least savory but only sure way to get rid of the plant is to dig it up and remove the root system. First you will want to cut the above ground portion of the plant away except for a small stub so it is easy to identify exactly where it is. Discard this is a thick plastic lawn and leaf bag. Next dig around the stub and then push deep and lift it from the ground with the shovel and toss it into the bag as well. Another method, although it is less preferred is to is to place a thick plastic bag over the plant and try to pull the plant out of the ground. More often than not I find I break the plant and have to dig it up anyway.
In case you have a poison oak vine climbing around a tree you need to use a different tactic. When they grow around trees their root system often weaves with the trees root system making it nearly impossible to remove in full. The best thing to do in this case is to remove the vine from the tree. I prefer snipping away sections to discard in my waste bag. Leave just a small section of a few leaves showing and liberally spray them with something like Roundup or Brush-B-Gone that is a non-selective herbicide. These will kill anything they come in contact with so as the leaves absorb this it will work down to the root system and eventually kill that as well. Multiple applications are sometimes needed so you should monitor the vines demise to determine when it needs another dose.
Some people who do not wish to use poisons to combat and kill poison oak maintain it can be killed with a saltwater and soap mixture (2 parts saltwater/1 part soap) but I have never tried this so I can’t say it would work. Still if you are totally against using poisonous herbicides it is worth a shot. Never dispose of poison oak clippings or root system in a compost pile as they will just reappear where you dumped them and never under any circumstances should you burn it. This can cause all sorts of respiratory problems.
Getting rid of poison oak isn’t a fun job, if possible it should be left to professional landscapers. If however you want to do it yourself follow the above steps as those are two ways to remove the plant/vine and root system. Please remember just removing what you see is not killing the plant and that you need to cover as much skin as possible when undertaking this task. Just to be extra safe keep Technu soap on hand and wash with it liberally as soon as you complete the job. It’s not a fun job, but if you are going to do it follow the above procedures and do it the safe correct way.