- Author: Belinda J. Messenger-Sikes
The best way to avoid exposure to poison oak is knowing how to identify it. While the classic adage “leaves of three, let them be” can help differentiate poison oak from true oaks, it's not always correct. Poison oak is also deciduous so detecting it in the winter or spring when there are no leaves can be tricky.
More information on about this plant can be found in the recently updated
Before hiking, backpacking, or camping, people are warned to avoid poison oak. But what should you do if you find it growing on property that you own or manage?
Careful removal of poison oak is essential, since many people are allergic to it and can develop skin rashes when they come in contact with it. Effective poison oak removal can be achieved through a combination of control methods. Hand pull or use a shovel or pick to remove the entire plant, including the roots. The best time to remove poison oak is early spring or late fall when soil is more likely to be moist.
When removing poison oak, wear protective clothing, including washable cotton gloves over plastic gloves. Wash all clothing thoroughly, including shoes,...
Campers and hikers are often warned to avoid poison oak in summer by looking out for green plants with glossy leaflets of three. However, as weather cools, the appearance of the plant changes, making it more difficult to identify.
In fall, poison oak leaves turn attractive shades of orange and red, which then drop off in winter. The bare branches still contain allergens capable of causing a rash in sensitive individuals who brush up against it. In some cases, people may unknowingly use the plant's branches for firewood or to roast marshmallows, exposing themselves to the poisonous oils via smoke particle inhalation.
Next time you plan a trip outdoors, make sure to read the
Summer is a great time for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and backpacking. During your adventures in natural areas, be on the lookout for poison oak. Poison oak, a well known plant for most people in California, is widespread in our state and can be encountered in open woodland areas, grassy hillsides, coniferous forests, and open chaparral.
Poison oak looks different depending on the time of year, and may be difficult to recognize. In spring, it has young leaves that are green or sometimes light red, along with small, white-green flowers. In late spring and summer, poison oak foliage is glossy green. As we head into late summer and early fall, the leaves will turn shades of orange and red with whitish-green,...