Poodle Bites

November 25, 2009 at 3:16 am 3 comments

It’s called the Poodle Dog Bush, and while that name makes it sound like one of the sweet, quirky characters from Dr. Seuss’s books — it’s actually one of the junkyard dogs of the plant world.

 Photo courtesy sedges_have_edges of Flickr.com under Creative Commons license 
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Turricula parryi  bites.   Like the demon spawn of stinging nettle and poison ivy, the deviously attractive plant causes severe dermatitis in everyone who touches – or even smells it.
 
The leaves, flowers and stem of living and dead plants cause adverse reactions.  Symptoms include pain, itching, swelling and blistering of the skin and mucous membranes.  In bit of added trickery, symptoms often don’t show up until 12-36 hours after contact and they can last for weeks.

The poodle dog bush tempts hikers with quirky good looks.  Like a cross between Joshua tree and trumpet flower, it blooms from June though August.  The plant prefers recent burns, disturbed areas and chaparral slopes from the southern Sierra Nevada and San Joaquin Valley south to Baja California.  The only hint you may get of its evil intent is a strong, foul odor.  The poodle dog bush is covered with stiff microscopic hairs known as trichomes.  The trichomes emit prenylated phenolic compounds that cause the dermatitis (and probably also the foul odor).
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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rob McMillin  |  November 25, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Interesting. When I first saw it, I thought it looked like a yucca, or a flowering Joshua tree. Fortunately, I don’t get out in those areas much these days (the last time I was in Anza Borrego was when I was in the Boy Scouts). But good to know.

  • 2. Dorene  |  November 27, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Hey, stinging nettle is a good plant! If you handle it correctly, you won’t get “stung” and it both tastes good and is good for you if you boil it for 10 minutes to denature the nettles. And, it makes a very nice “small beer.”

    If you don’t have access to animal manure, stinging nettle either as a dried mulch or made as a tea will give your plants all the nitrogen they need, as well as trace minerals. I’m not biodynamic, but stinging nettle and comfrey are part of every BD compost pile and it’s worth emulating.

    (I hope I had you at the beer! ;-))

  • 3. SmartDogs  |  November 27, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Good point! I make regular beer and we have lots of nettles, maybe I should try a nettle beer next year.

    Stinging nettle has also been used to treat arthritis. And, even though I’m terribly sensitive to poison ivy, the nettle’s sting doesn’t bother me much. The sensation is a lot like the tingle of a sports cream to me, though it lasts a lot longer.

    I used to put ‘weed’ nettles (ie the ones that grew where I didn’t want them) into the compost. But since we now have plenty of chicken poop I may experiment with other uses.

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