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How to Spot Poison Oak in Southern California

How to Spot Poison Oak in Southern California

Knowing how to spot poison oak can save you from the rash and itches it causes. I know what poison oak looks like, so I’ve never suffered from its symptoms.  It grew in patches all over the hillside where I grew up. My parents schooled me in identifying it and I just avoided it.

I finally snapped a great photo of it at Oak Canyon Nature Center and thought I would share — so and your kids can avoid it, too.

So this is a typical scene when you are out in the “wilderness” of California: large oak trees and some scrub brush. Those green close-to-the-ground stalks surrounding that  tree trunk are poison oak. The first thing I look for is patches.  This stuff usually grows together and I can spot it from far away before I even get close enough to identify the leaves. Stay out of the patches!

Here it is again – across the creek – growing in large patches or clumps underneath the trees and up the hillside. It can be merely a foot of the ground or I’ve seen huge patches growing up to my eye level.

This is what the leaves  look like up close. I can often identify them by a telltale reddish color on the leaves, but in Oak Canyon its pure green.  There’s a saying:  “Leaves of three, let them be.”

My hiking friend, Cindy, of has more safety tips and rules on her website. #5 on her list deals with Poison Oak.

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