|Toxicodendron diversilobum, otherwise known as Western Poison Oak. Aren't its leaves beautiful? Snapshot taken on an early spring day.|
I miss regularly writing here. I thought I would share an interesting conversation with someone who retired from my work place last year. He’s a wonderful environmentalist champion, and writes beautiful poetry.
When I verbalized how much I’m annoyed by and fearful of poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, here in CA) on hiking trails, he shared two interesting points that grounded and reminded me of how human-centric we people can be about nature.
Did you know that….
1) Poison oak’s potent oil, urushiol, only irritates humans? Poison oak is an important species in its natural environment: it provides food for deer, birds, and contributes as habitat for other insects and creatures. WE are the only ones it’s annoying to. Consider that poison oak helps keep annoying humans from messing with habitat.
2) Western poison oak is a California native plant with the widest range, meaning it grows in most habitats throughout the state. Some consider it to be a keystone species because of the benefits it brings for wildlife, and adaptability to California’s many micro-climates.
So, I take it back: poison oak, mad props to you. I am crazy paranoid about getting dermatitis from you although I’ve YET to experience your wrath. I attribute that to wearing long pants on hikes and stepping carefully.
I fantasize that I’m one of the few (13% is it?) in the human population who are immune to its oil. But, I’m not willing to test that…have you ever brushed up against Poison Oak on accident? What happened?