Sunday, September 23, 2007

Poison Oak Can Be A Good Thing

Most of the time you hear people complaining about poison oak, and wondering what good can ever some of it. Around here it grows anywhere there's bright sun and it loves to climb oaks(its favorite) or a fir(in a pinch). It sends out little rootlets into the bark and moss(yes I've tugged on it to find out), but doesn't kill the tree.

What is good about poison oak? This time of year it is the first plant to turn to fire and lose its leaves(thankfully), finally turning a bright scarlet before the leaves fall.
It has a pretty palette of green to pink to scarlet, very pretty in the setting sun.
Poison oak makes lots of berries for the birds(a good thing), and keeps trespassing hunters out of our woods(another good thing). Most of all, I think its best good thing is that it makes me pay attention--so I don't wallow in it, of course, but watching for it as I wander in the bush sharpens my awareness for outlines and shapes, and I end up seeing a lot more.
It is very easy to uproot, and at least for me, when there's been a few good rains on the leafless stems, it's pretty harmless. I read once that the Indians would rinse off in a puddle or stream if they mashed around in the poison oak. I tried it, it worked(ok I didn't roll around in it, just brushed up against it. And I know I do get it if I don't wash it off right away, so I'm not one of those "immune" freaks). Your mileage may vary, of course.


burning silo said...

When I'm in Oregon and California, I always have to remember to watch for Poison Oak. Fortunately, I've only ever been out west in autumn when the leaves are red. Otherwise, I'd probably have a run in with it! We do get poison ivy that grows both as an understory plant, but also as a vine going up trees. If all goes according to plan, I'll be in Oregon in about a week, so thanks for the reminder to watch out for Poison Oak!! (o:

wyldthang said...

Hi Bev! here's some good vibes for your trip to Oregon! I hope you have a great trip, the fall colors are early this year!

burning silo said...

Thanks, Celeste! I was wondering how they would be this year. I saw some recent pics taken in N. California and it looks like things were a couple of weeks ahead of the way I remembered them being last year. Guess maybe it was the heat and dryness.
I'll probably write to ask you a couple of things about the tide pools at Yaquina as we're thinking of going there on our way down the Oregon coast.

Larry said...

No poison oak here in Missouri, but lots of poison ivy. It turns scarlet and orange in the fall too, helping to justify its existence!

sarah said...

Hi Celeste,
I work at the Museum of Natural History in Santa Cruz, CA. I was doing a google search for "poison oak vines", and came across your blog. We're updating an old slideshow to DVD format, and some of the photos are missing, so I'm trying to replace them.

The one you have of a big Doug Fir with pink poison oak growing up it would be perfect. Would you be willing to donate it to our cause? We'd give you photo credits of course.

Let me know.

Sarah Underwood