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Friday, May 31, 2013

The Dreaded Poodle Dog Bush!

In parts of nearby Cuyamaca Rancho State park, there are massive stands of tall, impressive plants with towering spikes of pink-to-purple flowers. These plants seem very inviting to visit, especially to a bug-lover like myself, as the nectar draws in a multitude of wasps and bees.

"Don't pet ME!"

But this is no benign plant -- it is the dreaded Poodle Dog Bush (Eriodictyon parryi), a plant that I have seen before on occasion in the Cuyamaca Mountains following the Cedar Fire (even on our own property), but that never lasted more than a season (at least to my eyes). It is dreaded as the entire plant -- stems, leaves and flowers -- is covered in fine hairs, and these hairs when touched by human skin, penetrate and deliver a chemical that brings on symptoms something akin to a combination of poison oak and stinging nettle combined. Being sensitive to both of these other plants, I can sympathize with the misery this would translate to! Intensely itchy blisters that last for days, with some pain as well. Apparently even smelling it can lead to a negative allergic reaction.

The lovely flower spike.

This species is a fire-follower, requiring intense heat for germination of its seeds, and after some controlled burning across from the Paso Picacho Campground in the state park, several big stands of the plant have sprung up. I decided to pay the $8 day use fee this afternoon in order to walk over and photograph the plants.

Unfortunately, possibly too late, I realized as I walked towards the stands, that there were some small, few-inches-high Poodle Dog Bushes along the way, and I may have stepped on them. After getting home, I washed and scrubbed my shoes and carefully stripped off my jeans and socks, in the same way I would do if I had contacted poison oak. Hopefully I escaped unscathed -- it's a delayed reaction, so I guess I'll find out in a couple days.

I also read (after the fact) that breathing the "perfume" can cause a negative reaction. In my photographing the plants, the smell was unmistakable and rather pungent. Again, time will tell if I pay a price for these photos, I guess.

My step-son, Ted is currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and encountered some Poodle Dog Bush in the past few days, and reports that the skin reaction is maddeningly itchy and re-contamination occurs readily from a contaminated sleeping bag! This plant wants to create a huge seed set and not get eaten too much by herbivores while attracting its pollinators. It has an interesting way of achieving this, to be sure.

The tiny hairs are visible here.

The flower spikes are several feet high.

All photos taken in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, across from the Paso Picacho Campground. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Wild Turkey Family

A little over a week ago, I heard a lot of bird vocalizations outside the house, including much crow cawing and some classic upset-turkey sounds.

I suspected the bobcat of being in the area, and wandered over towards the neighboring property where the crow hullaballoo was coming from, but saw no sign of the cat.

All the while, a female turkey was standing stationary just above the driveway, clucking continuously.

As I made my way back towards the house, I heard tiny peeping sounds from the direction that I had come. The crows at this point had dispersed. Then the female turkey switched to highly agitated gobbling, and I knew then that it was a mother turkey who had become separated from her young.

I went right inside, but "spied" from the upstairs bedroom window, and within about a minute saw a group if quite tiny baby turkeys rejoining their mother. Then the mother moved off, with the babies following (and sometimes leading). That's where the photo below came from.

Mom turkey with eight youngsters. Reunited!
It's been about a week-and-a-half and we have seen this mother with her young almost very day on or near our property. Yesterday there was tell-tale evidence of splashing at the ground-level bird bath on the patio.

Today I saw the mother again, in almost the exact spot that the photo above shows, and I could see the group (and there were still eight babies visible this time) moving towards the patio where the bird bath is.

I tried to spy without being seen, but that was difficult, and I didn't want to risk scaring them. But I caught a glimpse of the group fully engaged in drinking at the bath! I managed one photo, with a chair and border of the glass window clearly visible in the shot.

Cool drink time for the turkey family.
So far this mother has been quite successful at protecting her brood!