Spring has sprung, and summer is around the corner. The poison plants are back, and this summer they promise to send two million Americans to the doctor’s office. The three most common culprits – poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac – are native to the Americas. European explorers hadn’t seen them before. Sometime around 1600, Captain John Smith recorded his encounter when he wrote, “The poisoned weed is much in shape like our English ivy, but being touched, causeth redness, itching, and lastly, blisters.”
Native Americans knew all about poison ivy. Indian warriors coated their arrow tips with it, and medicine men rubbed the leaves on infections in an effort to break open the swollen skin.