May 17

Itchy, Scratchy, Poison Oak

This poison oak is flowering.

Do you know the saying, “Leaves of three, let them be.”?  Did you know it is about poison oak? Poison oak is called poison oak for a reason, it’s poisonous. Poison oak is a plant that can be either a vine or sometimes a bush. There are different kinds of poison oak. West Poison Oak grows in the canyons around San Diego. Rose Canyon is full of poison oak. . It grows all along the west coast from Baja California, to California, to British Columbia in Canada.

Poison oak looks very different at different times of the year. In the fall the leaves get red and orange. In winter, the three leaves separate and fall off and we touch them thinking they are normal leaves. In spring poison oak has new leaves of three so let them be. Lastly, in summer they are still like spring and they grow berries and flowers that are poisonous. One very poisonous part of poison oak is the berries. They have greenish flowers and poisonous waxy white berries. The berries on poison oak are as poisonous as the leaf. If you ever come up to poison oak or berries and flowers The poison oil, on the leaves react to our skin when we touch the leaves surface. When we touch the leaf its oils itches our skin. Its oils react to our oils on our skin and the rash is a red blistering rash. Which causes a rash that if you don’t cure right away it will get worse because its oils will spread onto our oils.

Some animals don’t react to poison oak. Deer actually eat poison oak and they don’t get a reaction at all! Birds hide themselves in it so they stay unreachable from predators that react to poison oak. The birds aren’t bothered by the poison oak.

When you go to a canyon make sure you don’t touch any plants with three leaves. A way to remember it is “ Leaves of three let them be”. Remember it’s Toxicodendron Diversilobum (poison oaks real name).

 By Eeekster (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons