May we listen to the forest guardians – like poison oak – and keep our human selves and our pollution out of certain areas. Shepherd Bliss, From Perspectives, Issue No. 14, January 2013
Poison Ivy is a native plant on the East Coast. It has an important function in our ecosystem; it provides food, shelter and breeding space for our native bugs, birds and small animals. Unlike invasive vines brought in for their fragrance (Japanese honeysuckle), their pretty berries (porcelain berry), or their landscaping uses (English Ivy), it is adapted to our ecosystem and won’t smother, strangle or otherwise kill any tree it may be climbing. While it protects its resources, it won’t steal the resources of the other plants and animals and soil it shares its environment with, as all the aforementioned vines will. Not everyone is allergic to it, although most everyone knows to stay away from it. That is a good thing for the bugs, birds, and animals that use it for food and shelter. Rip it out, and you’ve just taken away someone’s home and kitchen and left a vacuum that is likely to be replaced by another plant that won’t share resources, rather it will take over the whole system, leaving less and less for the other flora and fauna that called that area home.
Who do you know that functions as the poison ivy in your organization or group? The truth-teller who tells you something you might not want o hear? The whistle-blower who says the emperor has no clothes? Ignoring them or ripping them out could be the death knell of your organization or department. At a minimum, your organizational system will be less diverse and less healthy.
Respect your poison ivy. It plays an important function.