At the Post-Fire Workshop held at the Three Rivers Memorial Building on Saturday, March 26, Dr. Christy Brigham of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks reported that Poodle-Dog Bush is being found in areas burned by the KNP Complex Fire in 2021.
When in bloom, hikers and other visitors to areas that have been affected by wildfire may be tempted by the attractive flowers of Poodle-Dog Bush then regret touching the plant.
Description of Poodle-Dog Bush
Poodle-Dog Bush (Eriodictyon parryi, formerly Turricula parryi) is endemic to southern California and northern Baja California. It is most prevalent in California’s Transverse Range — Santa Monica Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, and San Bernardino Mountains — but it does occur regularly in the Coast Ranges from San Luis Obispo south and the Sierra Nevada from Kings Canyon south. Its range extends as far south as the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir mountains of Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
The seeds of Poodle-Dog Bush can lie dormant for many years then make an advantageous emergence in disturbed areas with little competition. Typically Poodle-Dog Bush populations establish following wildfire with the intensity to burn the majority of plants and trees of an area. However other disturbances, such as landslides, floods, and construction, can awaken the seeds.
These plants play an important role in re-establishing forest populations by stabilizing soil that has become vulnerable to subsequent disturbance, thus helping more long term populations, such as conifer trees, to take root and hold their ground.
The plant is quite attractive when in bloom with tall, showy inflorescences of lavender-colored flowers from May through August. However, it is not the floral display alone to which one ought to familiarize themselves.
Dangers of Poodle-Dog Bush
The leaves of Poodle-Dog Bush have small hairs that embed themselves into skin and clothing. These hairs cause a contact dermatitis similar to that of contact with Poison Oak, including rashes and blistering. The allergic reaction may not present itself for several days after contact, especially if the contact was mainly with clothing handled later.
The treatments for Poison Oak dermatitis are likely as effective in treating Poodle-Dog Bush dermatitis. Anti-histamines, such as Benadryl, do not elleviate the effects of the plant as they are not caused by a histamine reaction. Hikers carrying Tecnu skin cleanser, or its active ingredient, acetone, have reported diminished irritation when the skin is cleaned immediately with these substances, although such reports cannot know what the effects would have been had no action been taken. A doctor may prescribe an oral steroid like prednisone if the dermatitis is severe.
It is best to familiarize oneself and recreating partners with the appearance of Poodle-Dog Bush to avoid contact with the plant and with leaves that may have fallen.
What Poodle-Dog Bush Looks Like
Memorize the appearance of this plant or download the photos to your mobile phone prior to visiting areas that have been affected by fire.