If you’re gathering your own vines or berries for holiday wreaths, do it carefully.
Grape and kudzu vines make great wreath framing, according to Paul Thomas, UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist.
“But when people are pulling down vines from a tree,” he said, “they often make the mistake of grabbing poison ivy vines and mixing them in the wreath.”
Grape vines have long, flaky bark and may have remnants of a single tendril every so often. Woody kudzu vines are smooth all the way to the base. The base of poison ivy vines looks “hairy,” with “hundreds of tiny, root- like things attaching to the tree or rock.”
Left outside, where the oils are inert, poison ivy vines can be relatively harmless.
“But when they get inside and get warm,” Thomas said, “the oil can volatilize or be released from the vines.”
The best way to tell the difference, he said, is to get a good botanical book. Thomas said 99.9 percent of plants in holiday decorations aren’t deadly. A good rule is that if the berry is fleshy and soft, such as a grape, remove it. If it’s hard or very firm, keep it.
“Mistletoe berries are deadly,” he said. “Holly, yew and juniper berries can make you very ill if you eat a great many.”