Poodle-dog Bush Near the Top of the Mt. Wilson Trail

Poodle-dog bush (Eriodictyon parryi) growing along the Mt. Wilson Trail about a half-mile from the top.
Poodle-dog bush near the top of the Mt. Wilson Trail. June 15, 2019.

The Mt. Wilson – Chantry Flat loop is a favorite that I run a couple times a year. Including a little bonus mileage to get to the Mt. Wilson parking lot before the gate opens, the run is about 18 miles long and gains/loses about 4500′ of elevation. The main trails in the loop are the Rim Trail, Gabrielino Trail, Upper Winter Creek Trail and Mt. Wilson Trail.

The weather was perfect for today’s run. Sunny at the beginning, then partly cloudy for the 4000′ climb from the “green bridge” below Chantry to the parking lot on Mt. Wilson. Although there was a lot of poison oak on the Rim and Gabrielino Trails, it was mostly avoidable. About 30 minutes into the run, I was surprised to hear the unmistakable gobble and rustling of a wild turkey high on the Rim Trail.

Near the end of the loop, on the section of the Mt. Wilson Trail above the Mt. Wilson Toll Road, I saw two solo hikers brush against new, vigorously growing patches of Poodle-dog bush (Eriodictyon parryi). I spoke to them, and they were unaware that, like poison oak, Poodle-dog bush can cause an itchy rash. Some people don’t react at all to the plant and others can have a severe reaction. My own experience is described in this post.

Poodle-dog bush is a fire follower that grows in the San Gabriel Mountains, and some other areas. It became very widespread following the 2009 Station Fire. There are still some diminishing patches of Poodle-dog bush on the north side of Mt. Wilson (and elsewhere) from the Station Fire, but the Poodle-dog bush on this part of the Mt. Wilson Trail is a result of the 2017 Mt. Wilson Fire.

Some related posts: Contact Dermatitis from Turricula parryi – Poodle-dog Bush, Mt. Wilson – Newcomb Pass – Chantry Flat Loop, Misplaced on Mt. Wilson, GSU Mt. Wilson CHARA Telescope Array

Bigcone ENSO Prediction, Poodle-dog Bush Blues, and a Surprise on Kenyon Devore

Morning sun on the dome of the Mt. Wilson Observatory

I’d paused to rinse my arms and legs, hoping to wash away at least a little of the poison oak and Poodle-dog bush I’d been unable to avoid. I was at a small spring part way up the Kenyon Devore Trail, doing a variation of a loop that my son and I had done a year before.

Today’s run had started on the top of Mt. Wilson, descended the Rim Trail to Newcomb Pass then followed the Gabrielino Trail down to the Rincon – Red Box Road. This year instead of taking the forest road down to West Fork, I stayed on the Gabrielino Trail and descended to Devore Camp, and then worked back upstream on the Gabrielino Trail past West Fork to the Kenyon Devore Trail.



Driving up the Mt. Wilson Road I’d noticed that many of the bigcone Douglas-firs were heavily laden with cones. According to the Forest Service’s Silvics Manual bigcone Douglas-firs don’t often have bumper crops. Why now, following two subpar rain seasons, the most recent of which was unusually dry? Was the tree’s evolutionary knowledge playing the odds that a wet period of Southern California’s wet/dry ENSO cycle is a Winter or two away? At the moment La Nina or Neutral conditions look more likely this coming Winter, but the odds for El Nino could increase for the Winter of 2014-15.

Update June 25, 2018. El Nino conditions did emerge in late Fall 2014 and continued until the Spring of 2016. However, the drought in Southern California persisted and below average precipitation was recorded in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. It wasn’t until the 2016-17 rain season (during a weak La Nina) that Southern California received above average precipitation.



Like last year there was plenty of poison oak and Poodle-dog bush along the Rim and Gabrielino Trails. The poison oak was about the same as last year — mostly but not entirely avoidable — but the Poodle-dog seemed worse. I’d hoped that this year’s much lower than average rainfall would suppress the growth of Poodle-dog bush, but if anything it seemed more robust. Poodle-dog had overgrown the trail in several spots, its long stalks and sticky leaves overlapping the trail like a gauntlet of pikes. Contact was unavoidable.



It had been interesting to visit Devore Camp. The last time I’d been there was in March 2003 when Gary Gunder and I paddled from the West Fork San Gabriel River from West Fork to Hwy 39. We had been fortunate to be able to paddle the reach with few portages. With all the downed trees from the Station Fire it may be many years before big storms flush the river channel to point it can be paddled without logs being a constant problem.



In addition to the expanses of Poodle-dog bush blossoms, a number of other wildflowers were in bloom, including Grinnell’s beardtongue, rose snapdragon, blackberry, pink, paintbrush, bush poppy, buckwheat, gilia, Keckiella and others. Along the West Fork the blossoms of spotted Humboldt’s lilies had beamed like yellow-orange paper lanterns scattered throughout an immense garden.

I cannot ascend the Kenyon Devore Trail without thinking about the Mt. Disappointment 50K/50M. During those races the little spring I was at now had always been a welcome source of “extra” water on the final climb to Mt. Wilson. The 2013 races have been cancelled, but are expected to return in 2014. We all know how tough R.D. Gary Hilliard is and look forward to next year’s race!

“Hey, are you on a trail?”

The voice seemed to come from nowhere. I looked to my left and right, but the trail was empty.

“Hey, up here!”



What the… I scanned the STEEP slopes above the creek, but still had a hard time locating the voice. After a moment of rustling, a helmeted figure emerged from the trees, carrying an orange mountain bike.

If you’ve done the Kenyon Devore Trail as part of the Mt. Disappointment races or at another time you probably recall the slippery stream crossing with the chain. The MTBer had apparently missed a switchback about a mile up the trail and descended directly down a ridge to the spring.

Update Friday, June 21, 2013. Lucked out with the Poodle-dog bush* and poison oak! Just one small spot of irritation on the top of an ankle, and it’s already almost gone.

*The taxonomic name for Turricula parryi (Poodle-dog bush) has changed to Eriodictyon parryi. The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, Second Edition (2012) has returned Turricula to the genus Eriodictyon, as originally described by Gray. According to the Wikipedia entry for Turricula (April 11, 2012), “… molecular phylogenetic analysis carried out by Ferguson (1998) confirms that Turricula should be treated as a separate genus within a clade (Ferguson does not use the term “subfamily”) that includes Eriodictyon, and also the genera Nama and Wigandia; Eriodictyon is the genus to which Turricula is closest in molecular terms, and is its sister taxon.” I use “Turricula” and “Poodle-dog bush” interchangeably as a common name.

Some related posts: Mt. Wilson Rim Trail – Kenyon Devore Trail Loop, GSU Mt. Wilson CHARA Telescope Array, Why Won’t My Smart Key Work?

Stem fasciation in Eriodictyon parryi (Poodle-dog bush)

The photograph above is of an example of a bizarre malformation in plants known as stem fasciation — in this case in Eriodictyon parryi (Poodle-dog bush). The normally round stem of the plant has been transformed into a thick ribbon-like structure, many times the size of a normal stem. The photo is from a recent trail run in an area burned by the 2009 Station Fire.



This is the second time I’ve found a plant with a fasciated stem in a burn area. The first was at Sage Ranch following the 2005 Topanga Fire. In this case the fasciated stem of a wreath plant (Stephanomeria) was a contorted spiral several feet tall.

There are many mechanisms which are reported to cause fasciation; among them a bacterium, stress, chemical or mechanical damage, and inheritance. It may or may not be coincidence that both of these examples were found in burn areas — about two and a half years into recovery in the case of the Turricula, and a year in the case of the wreath plant.

Sprouting Poodle-dog Bush Leaves

Turricula leaves

Poodle-dog bush* sprouting on “Edison” road between the West Fork San Gabriel River and Shortcut Saddle.

Poodle-dog bush along Edison Road below Shortcut Saddle, July 31, 2011.
Poodle-dog bush along Edison Road below Shortcut Saddle

The serration of the edges of these sprouting leaves is more pronounced than in older plants, but in my experience the toothed leaf margin is present to a varying degree on most plants. This may not always be evident because the leaf margin tends to roll under with age. The minutely hairy, densely clustered lanceolate leaves and pinnate veining are distinctive.

The leaves become more fuzzy and gray-green with age, eventually turning yellow-brown and then gray as they wither. The mature stalks of Turricula can be several feet tall.

From Sunday’s run from Shortcut Saddle in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Los Angeles.

*The taxonomic name for Turricula parryi (Poodle-dog bush) has changed to Eriodictyon parryi. The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, Second Edition (2012) has returned Turricula to the genus Eriodictyon, as originally described by Gray. According to the Wikipedia entry for Turricula (April 11, 2012), “… molecular phylogenetic analysis carried out by Ferguson (1998) confirms that Turricula should be treated as a separate genus within a clade (Ferguson does not use the term “subfamily”) that includes Eriodictyon, and also the genera Nama and Wigandia; Eriodictyon is the genus to which Turricula is closest in molecular terms, and is its sister taxon.” I use “Turricula” and “Poodle-dog bush” interchangeably as a common name.

Related posts: Contact Dermatitis from Eriodictyon parryi – Poodle-dog Bush, Getting Over Poodle-dog Bush Dermatitis, Trail Runners Describe Reactions to Poodle-dog Bush

Trail Runners Describe Reactions to Poodle-dog Bush

Turricula (Poodle-dog bush) along the Valley Forge Trail. July 16, 2011

In a real-world test of Poodle-dog bush* exposure, during a recent training run at Mt. Wilson approximately 30 runners ran a mile-plus section of trail overgrown with the plant. Reactions varied from none at all, to at least one runner who had a strong reaction similar to my first bout with Poodle-dog bush several weeks ago.

Here are some runner comments:

“I can’t believe it, but I had very little reaction. Just a few little bumps. You saw how careful I was trying to be. Maybe not man-handling it helps.”

“Not much sleep for the last two days…arms, legs, and abdomen burn way worse than Poison Oak. By nightfall the blisters break and ooze.”

“I finally had a mild reaction today, red rashes that turned into very small blisters…”

“Absolutely nothing happened, I’m either not allergic to it, or the soap & brush took the top layers of skin off and the poison with it.”

“I’ve got the stuff in my left eyelid (I must have rubbed my eye after hand contact with T. while carefully trying to part it as I inched my way down VF); I’ve got it on my stomach at waist band and lower, and I’m waiting for my legs, although I may get lucky there.”

Since I’d had a strong reaction before, I expected the worst. Fortunately my reaction was relatively minor. Like several other runners, I had a same-day irritation/inflammation along the waistband of my running shorts. In addition the top of one ankle and a small area on the inside of one arm developed a very mild rash. It was barely noticeable, and cleared up completely in about five days.

There are several possible reasons I didn’t have a strong reaction this time. Even though contact was unavoidable, I walked in areas where the Poodle-dog bush was the most dense, and I attempted to avoid the plant as much as possible. This time around my legs and arms were not covered with the sticky goo from the plant. Even so, as soon as I was out of the area with Poodle-dog bush, I stopped at a creek and washed off my legs and arms. I also washed again at the end of the run.

Another reason I might have reacted differently is the age of the plants. As Poodle-dog bush matures, the lower leaves wither and fall. (This gives the plant the appearance of the groomed tail of a poodle.) There’s anecdotal evidence that as the plant dries out the almost microscopic hairs that cover the leaves, stems and flowers are easily broken and shed, and can contribute to the irritation/inflammation the plant causes. It seems plausible that these hairs could be an irritant, or might even act like a minuscule time-release capsule of the plant’s active compounds.

Note: The trail was the Valley Forge Trail. Trail work is scheduled on this trail the next two weekends.

*The taxonomic name for Turricula parryi (Poodle-dog bush) has changed to Eriodictyon parryi. The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, Second Edition (2012) has returned Turricula to the genus Eriodictyon, as originally described by Gray. According to the Wikipedia entry for Turricula (April 11, 2012), “… molecular phylogenetic analysis carried out by Ferguson (1998) confirms that Turricula should be treated as a separate genus within a clade (Ferguson does not use the term “subfamily”) that includes Eriodictyon, and also the genera Nama and Wigandia; Eriodictyon is the genus to which Turricula is closest in molecular terms, and is its sister taxon.” I use “Turricula” and “Poodle-dog bush” interchangeably as a common name.

Some related posts: Contact Dermatitis from Turricula parryi (Poodle-dog Bush), Getting Over Poodle-dog Bush Dermatitis

Getting Over Poodle-dog Bush Dermatitis

Poodle-dog bush along Angeles Crest Highway, July 30, 2011.
Poodle-dog bush along Angeles Crest Highway

It’s been several weeks now since my bout of contact dermatitis from Poodle-dog bush*. The dermatitis was much better after a week, but took about two weeks to completely go away. I’ve heard this is typical, and several people commented that their Poodle-dog bush experience was similar to mine.

Update July 12, 2011. A running friend who recently did some trail work removing Poodle-dog bush on the Kenyon Devore Trail sent this photograph of a blotchy red rash that developed on his forearm. He first noticed a reaction four days after doing the trail work, and the photograph was taken 10 days after exposure. As in my case, several hours later he commented that the blotchy rash had merged into a more general inflammation with swelling.

Flowers of Poodle-dog bush, a plant that causes contact dermatitis in many people.
Flowers of Poodle-dog bush

The other day I was asked if I’d rather have dermatitis from poison oak or Poodle-dog bush. The reactions are so different, they are hard to compare. Plus, my exposure to Poodle-dog bush was probably a worst case scenario. It was as if the goo from the plant was painted on my arms and legs with a brush, and left to cure. I’m guessing that an equivalent exposure to poison oak would have been much, much worse.  The reaction to Poodle-dog bush seems to vary quite a lot from person to person, and some people have been severely affected.

I was a little worried that the extreme exposure to Poodle-dog bush might make me hypersensitive to the plant, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. About a week after recovering from the dermatitis, I did some trailwork with a group that cleared a section of overgrown trail in Shortcut Canyon. Not only was there Poodle-dog bush, but poison oak and stinging nettle as well. With normal precautions — long pants, long sleeves & gloves — I didn’t have a problem.

As long as you don’t have to wade through it, the oceans of violet flowered Poodle-dog bush in the Station Fire burn area are striking. I’ve heard Poodle-dog bush described as an invasive plant. While it is an unbelievably prolific fire-follower that seems to invade an area after a fire, it is a native California plant. Given just how prevalent it is after a fire, it probably plays a key role in the recovery process, perhaps helping to restore the chemical balance of the soil, as well as providing mulch.

*The taxonomic name for Turricula parryi (Poodle-dog bush) has changed to Eriodictyon parryi. The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, Second Edition (2012) has returned Turricula to the genus Eriodictyon, as originally described by Gray. According to the Wikipedia entry for Turricula (April 11, 2012), “… molecular phylogenetic analysis carried out by Ferguson (1998) confirms that Turricula should be treated as a separate genus within a clade (Ferguson does not use the term “subfamily”) that includes Eriodictyon, and also the genera Nama and Wigandia; Eriodictyon is the genus to which Turricula is closest in molecular terms, and is its sister taxon.” I use “Turricula” and “Poodle-dog bush” interchangeably as a common name.

Related post: After the Station Fire: Contact Dermatitis from Turricula parryi – Poodle-dog Bush and these additional posts.