Identifying Poison Oak

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Obviously, a big problem with getting Poison Oak is identifying the plant. If you can't spot Poison Oak a mile away, your only recourse is to never touch any vegetation at all while hiking or doing whatever you're doing.

I myself am not particularly good at spotting the plant. Personally, I don't think I even have to touch poison oak anymore, my immune system is so sensitive I think minute traces of the oil have actually been blown by the wind onto my skin and given me the rash.

I have a connection with a tree company, and managed to get a pamphlet from them about identifying poison oak. This is lifted shamelessly from the State Compensation Insurance Fund. In my opinion any company thoughtful enough to put out a pamphlet on Poison Oak is a great company and has my respect.

You can recognize Poison Oak by its trademarked 3 leaf pattern. Unfortunately, there are other plants with triple leaf patterns too.

You cannot depend on the colour. In some areas, the leaves remain green the entire time they are on the stem. In other areas the leaves are red in the spring.

Growth ranges from sea level to 5000 feet altitude in various forms, such as spindly plants, bushes, or climbing vines. Being a very common "shrub" in California, it must be watched for everywhere.

Poison Oak: An Evil Plant For All Seasons


In the Spring, the leaves are light, bright green with whitish green flowers clustered on the stems.


In the Summer, Poison Oak has yellow-green, pink, or reddish colours on some of the leaves, with small white or tan berries after the flowers of Spring.


The fruit becomes darker, the leaves turn bright red or russet brown.


Now the insidiousness of this evil weed is laid bare. The leaves and seeds fall, leaving stick or whip-like stems or climbing vines.

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NOTE: I am way, way, way, way behind on answering my e-mail. If you have comments, I welcome them, but if you have questions, please know that you will probably not get a response in a timely manner. I'm very sorry about this. Poison Oak FAQ
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