Operating Hours:Summer

Monday Closed

Tuesday/Thursday 1:30-3:00pm

Wednesday -Nature Camp

Friday 9am - 12pm

Walking trails are  open for your enjoyment 365 days a year during daylight hours.

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Summer time means outdoor activities and this means plant and animal life is active.  Susan and Jay Grayson came out to the Joe Ford Nature Park to hike the trails and the question was "is there any poison ivy"?  I told the Graysons the best way to identify poison ivy is by 3 leaves, but that can describe a lot of plants.  The Virginia creeper vine can look like poison ivy because the younger leaves can consist of three leaflets but have a few more serrations along the leaf edge and with the surface somewhat wrinkled, however most Virginia creeper leaves have five leaflets. Virginia creeper and poison ivy will grow together on the same tree but for those who do not get an allergic reaction to poison ivy  they could get a skin reaction from the Virginia creeper sap.  Another plant the fragrant sumac has a very similar appearance to poison ivy, both species have three leaflets but the leaflet of poison ivy is on a long stalk and the fragrant sumac does not have an obvious stalk.  The fragrant sumac leaves has a smell similar to citrus and will flower before the leaves in the spring while poison ivy has little or no fragrance and will produces flowers after the leaves emerge. Fragrant sumac fruit ripens to a deep reddish color and is covered with tiny hairs, while poison ivy fruit is smooth and ripens to a whitish color.  Do not confuse fragrant sumac with poison sumac because they are not the same. Poison sumac is a woody shrub or small tree growing to30 ft tall and grows in wet clay soils such as swamps or bogs.  Poison sumac is much more toxic than poison ivy or oak  but for a peace of mind this plant is not commonly found in our region but could be spotted in southern tip of Indiana.
Poison ivy is not a true vine because it is a member of the cashew and pistachio family and is a great food source for animals and birds.  The leaf of poison ivy color ranges from light green to dark green and turning bright red in fall.  The leaflets of mature leaves are somewhat shiny and will grow on the trunk of a tree with yellowish- or greenish-white flowers from May to July. The oil of the vine is what creates the rash not the oozing fluids released by the scratching of the  blisters.  The fluid in the blisters is produced by the body and not the initial contact with the vine, it may mean the spreading indicates that some areas received more of the poison and reacted sooner or other areas are still in contact with contaminated clothing, gloves or garden implements.  If you feel you have came in contact with poison ivy immediately wash with soap and cool water (not hot) and use rubbing alcohol to remove the vines oil.  The use of a dishwashing liquid mix with a gritty substance will exfoliate the skin and remove the oil and washes away more easily.  If a reaction does occur Calamine, corticosteroids or prescribed medication will provide relief from the itching of the rash but in severe cases it is wise to seek medical attention.
Let's be clear poison ivy is not the same as poison oak,  many people mistaken the plants and call them incorrectly.  Poison oak is found in the western part of the United States so it is very uncommon for poison oak to be thriving in our region.  This catch phrase may help most outdoors people "Leaves of three; let it be" is the best known, but it will also apply to poison oak and other plants with similar leaves. The other phrases that may be more helpful is, "Hairy vine, no friend of mine" , "Berries white, run in fright" and "Berries white, danger in sight. 
Whatever your adventure may be, casual or aggressive be sure to know your terrain and wear appropriate clothing, even in the well landscaped areas poison ivy and Virginia Creeper can be found.  Most well beaten trails will not have a lot of vine overgrowth but foraging into the heavily wooded terrains could result in contact with numerous plant life that could result in a skin reaction.    If you are new nature enthusiast start out in smaller parks to get a feel for plant and animal life.  The Joe Ford Nature Park is ideal for short hikes, bird and butterfly watching, plenty of squirrels and some visitor such as deer, snapping and box turtles will make their presence known.  For the younger children the Nature Sensory Zone is partially completed and waiting for them to experience play in a nature setting.  Picnic tables are available to complete a fun family experience and the park is open from day light to dark,  so come to the Joe Ford Nature Park and get into nature for the creation lasting memories.