Poison Oak is Most Dangerous in Winter

Poison Oak in December

Poison Oak in December, When It’s Most Dangerous

I took the above picture today near where poison oak grows on the fence bordering our neighbor’s vineyard, but this was a few feet away from the fence. As you can see, there are only a few leaves visible because this plant has been dormant. Now it’s beginning to come back to life where you can see some warning leaves. This is one case when you need to remember that red means to stop. Don’t touch. Leaves of three, especially shiny ones, mean the same thing. But more of those leaves will be coming later, when the plant will look more like the one below.

Poison Oak Along Salinas River Path in April

Notice that the leaves identify the poison oak, but the bare stems, with no identifying leaves, stick out in the path for you to brush with your shoes.

When your shoes, or dog, brushes against these bare stems, which you hardly notice, the sticky urushiol oil that makes you break out will rub off. It’s really easy to not notice poison oak in this state. Even forest rangers clearing trails have been fooled. For example, I ran into this last winter.

Almost Dormant Clump of Poison Oak in October, 2010

Almost Dormant Clump of Poison Oak in October, 2010. Notice how at the edge here, all you see is a clump of dead branches — or so they appear.



Because it’s so easy to make a mistake at this time of year, if you are sensitive to poison oak, you would be smart to be prepared. Before you work in the yard in places where poison oak has been known to grow, have Ivy Block – 4 oz on hand. Apply before you might come in contact with the plant. It has an Amazon 5-star rating, some that includes raves from highly sensitive people.

It’s also a good idea to have some Ivy X 84640 Poison Ivy and Oak Post Contact Skin Towelettes, 25-Count on hand, in case you got the oil on your shoe or on your skin in a place not protected. It can be applied after contact to remove the oils. It will dry quickly, and can easily be washed off when you are ready. It’s a good idea to keep it handy in your pocket for emergencies. The sooner you apply it, the better.

If you get this on your clothes, or your pet gets into the poison oak patch, you will need Tec Labs Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser 12-Ounce Be sure to read the review for this by Amazon customers. This will give you access to the experience of others who have used this and will explain how you might best use it to bath your pets and wash yourself and your clothes. It’s best, evidently to use it in combination with soap or laundry detergent.

Of course, it’s best never to touch poison oak at all if you are sensitive to it. To see how it looks during each season of the year, read Oak and Poison Oak in Photos: Can You Tell the Difference?