The King Range National Conservation area has incredibly diverse flora and fauna, and one of me more common plants—although commonly overlooked—is western poison oak.
Western poison oak, known scientifically as Toxicodendron diversilobum, is seen along the western coast, and is commonly seen in thick shrubs or vines. It can be identified by a few characteristics; three leaves that are green in summer or red in autumn, greenish-white flowers with five petals and stamen, and pale green berries about a quarter of an inch in diameter. Poison oak uses the flowers to reproduce, but it can also reproduce asexually through its roots (Greene).
Poison oak produces a compound called urushiol that can have a very unpleasant reaction in about 80% of Americans. Skin contact with urushiol can cause blisters, severe itching, and in some cases even life threatening swelling of the facial area. Inhalation of urushiol can have even worse symptoms such as lung irritation (“Poison Oak Symptoms”).
Poison oak not only poses a threat to humans in the King Range Conservation, but to the other plant life as well. Shrubs can block out sunlight for other ground dwelling plants, and the climbing vines can reach the tops of trees and block their sunlight. Although this plant can have adverse effects on humans and other plants, animals rarely ever show any reaction to urushiol (DiTomaso).
DiTomaso, J. M. “Poison Oak.” Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7431.html>.
Greene, Edward Lee. “Western Poison Oak.” Wildflowers and Other Plants of Southern California. Ed. Michael L. Charters. Web. <http://www.calflora.net/bloomingplants/westernpoisonoak.html>.
“Poison Oak Symptoms.” LifeScript. Web.<http://www.lifescript.com/health/briefs/p/poison_oak_symptoms.aspx>.