On May 24th, most of the Station Fire Closure area in ANF was opened and so has one of the classic mountain bike trails, Strawberry Peak. My recent ride at Strawberry was fantastic; however, it was also a stark reminder that Poodle Dog Bush is still here and strongly present in the burn areas. The back side of Strawberry and a good portion of the Gabrielino between Red Box and Switzers has large areas of PD along the trail.
If you haven’t heard of Poodle Dog Bush before, listen up and keep your eyes open for it on the trails. Basically, you want to avoid any contact with Poodle Dog.
What is it?
Poodle Dog Bush flourishes in a post fire eco system in Southern California. It has deep roots and helps retain soil so other plants can re-establish. Unfortunately, touching it can bring on a horrible reaction similar but possibly worse than Poison Oak. Unlike the well known oak, Poodle Dog is not oil based and cannot be washed off with a good soap. The plant’s tiny hairs (which are on the flowers, leaves, & stalks) stick to you upon contact. Reactions can take 3-10 days to appear and up to a month for the nasty rash to subside.
What it looks like
The photos here were taken May 2014 and the Poodle Dog Bush is easy to spot as its in full bloom. If you encounter it, stop and take a good look at the plant. The hairs are on the leaves too and even once the flowers disappear this summer the Poodle Dog can still get you.
Just like Poison Oak some people don’t react to it at all; however, if you want to be on the safe side I’d recommend covering your skin on trails where Poodle Dog is flourishing. Sun sleeves work great in the summer as a protective barrier and are cooler than a long sleeve jersey or arm warmers. Long socks can help keep the plant from touching your shins. Personally, I carry a change of clothes and a plastic bag for my riding clothes for when I return to the van. The last thing I want is Poodle Dog hairs on my car upholstery.
Below are a number of good articles online about Poodle Dog Bush from a few years back. They are still relevant and if you want some more info check them out.
CORBA’s blog post about Poodle Dog Bush 7/21/2011