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November 1955

An Anecdotal Biographical History of Poison Ivy

Author Affiliations


From the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Department of Dermatology.

AMA Arch Derm. 1955;72(5):438-445. doi:10.1001/archderm.1955.03730350040007

Poison ivy, with the possible exception of ragweed, is assuredly, from the medical point of view, the biggest plant nuisance in this country. Botanically, poison ivy belongs to the Anacardiaceae, which is a large family, most of whose members are tropical or sub-tropical. Many useful plants are included in this family; among them are the cashew nut (Anacardium occidentale), the marking nut or Indian ink tree (Semecarpus anacardium), the pistachio nut (Pistacia vera), the mango (Mangifera indica), the lacquer tree (Rhus verniciflua). There are, of course, many other members to this family, many of which are quite ornamental, such as some of the sumachs. In this country there are two "poisonous" members of this family, namely, poison ivy and poison sumach.* Poison ivy is the name given to a group of closely related plants of diverse leaf appearance and growth habit which are botanically known as

This is not strictly correct, in that there are other poisonous species in this country, e. g., Metopium, but these have such a limited distribution—the southern half of Florida or less—that for practical purposes they can be ignored.
Yungstroem was a Swedish gardener who accompanied Kalm on his travels.
This, unfortunately, has quite a modern ring to it.
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An Experimental Dissertation on the Rhus Vernix, Rhus Radicans, and Rhus Glabrum: commonly known in Pennsylvania by the names of Poison-Ash, Poison-Vine, and Common Sumach. Submitted to the examination of Reverend John Ewing, S.T.P. Provost; The Trustees, and Medical Faculty of the University of Pennsylvania on the twenty-second day of May, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight. For the Degree of Doctor of Medicine. By Thomas Horsfield, of Bethlehem, Penn.:: Member of the Medical and Chemical Societies of Philadelphia.
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