The Itchy Project

The Itchy Project

The ITCHY Project: Poison Ivy Education and Research

The Jelesko laboratory at Virginia Tech is the only academic research lab devoted to Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac research (genus = Toxicodendron – Latin for “poisonous tree”).  The Jelesko lab recently launched the Investigating Toxicodendron Change and Habitat for Years (ITCHY) Project to educate the public about poison ivy science (both what is known and still unknown).

The Jelesko lab is interested in all aspects of poison ivy biology.  For example, they investigate fundamental aspects of poison ivy ecology, such as determining why poison ivy seems to prefer growing closer to humans than in wild lands.  One of the biggest gaps in knowledge about poison ivy is why only humans seem to be negatively affected by the allergenic oil urushiol?  The Jelesko lab is interested in determining what urushiol is really doing for poison ivy plants in wild environments.  Dr. Jelesko recently received a patent on a native fungus that kills poison ivy seedlings.  This fungus is the first potential non-herbicide treatment for managing poison ivy in landscapes and gardens.  Moreover, the Jelesko lab is interested in how urushiol oil can be repurposed for beneficial economic purposes, such as biosustainable non-allergenic high performance materials and coatings.

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