Spring, and Poison Oak

Toxicodendron diversilobum; Anacardiaceae

I went for a hike on the Palomarin Trail today, and was captivated by the baby poison oak sprouting out. She pulled me in, AND told me to stay away. It was time to talk.

Poison oak is a mother, she is pushy and fierce, and a little overbearing, and a little crazy the way some fierce women are when you just don’t know what they’re going to do next.

I kept hearing the word “puttanesca.” She’s saying something with her spicy rhetoric: I’m here. We are here! There are others here besides YOU. Like a protective mother, she defends the natural world that we crash through. She watches over the forest floor until other, more demure species can take root….

What’s interesting is that the only creatures that she bothers are….US. Other animals aren’t bothered, other plants aren’t bothered, but she’s developed a specific protective mechanism that only works against good old human beings. It’s almost like the plant world got together and said, “hey, who’s willing to spend their evolutionary power specifically to combat those pesky humans?”

Well, I bow to her. And I find her fascinating, a woman of mystery, complex, loyal, resilient, and irritating. I respect her tenacity, continuing when her clamor for attention is answered with a scowl. Who says we are the more dominant species? She commands our respect, and even inspires our fear.

She laughs, because she knows I’ve found her out. I swallow a leaf and hope for the best, an ancient remedy for protecting against the rash.

 

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