Poison ivy is widespread in this area, and the season of greatest danger is just starting. While some people are more susceptible than others, it's believed that no one is ever fully immune.

All parts of the plant are toxic, particularly the sap. The poisonous agent is a resinous material called "urushoil," carried in ducts in leaves, stems and roots; a small amount of the toxic can cause skin inflammation. It's easily passed from one object to another, and you can get it from shoes, clothes, tools, gloves and the fur of dogs and cats.

When poison ivy is burned, the resin particles are carried with the smoke can cause severe poisoning. Since the resin is stored in the stems and roots, you can get it from handling them even during the winter.

The best way to protect yourself is to learn to recognize it and to get rid of it.

Poison ivy's leaf stalk bears three leaflets, arranged alternately on the stem. The flowers are greenish white and so inconspicuous that they're seldom noticed. Clusters of waxy white berries develop in late summer and hang on through the winter. The leaves turn pink to red in the fall.

Many kinds of birds use the berries for food. At least some of the seed pass through their intestinal tracts unharmed, and the seed germinate readily; seedlings and young plants can often be found under trees, shrubs and fences where birds perch. They can become established and grow unnoticed among other plants in the garden.

Poison ivy is fairly easy to kill about now, when it's making its growth. Amino Triazole (sold as Amitrole, Weedazol and poison ivy killer) is one of the best chemicals to use. Specialists say it's relatively nontoxic to birds and pets and persists in the soil for only a short time. Directions on the label should be followed closely.

Usually roots and all are killed, but it may take ten days or more before the leaves begin to droop.

Amino Triazole - like any other weed-killing chemical than can be used against poison ivy - may seriously damage or kill other plants if it touches them.