Friday, June 3, 2011, was a big day. Not only was it my anniversary, but the Angeles Crest Highway reopened, nearly two years after the August 29, 2009 Station Fire. Following the opening, the road was crazy. People on motorcycles, bicycles and in cars streamed to this beloved wildland area. Sirens told of recklessness leading to unfortunate and deadly accidents, but for most, revisiting the mountains above Pasadena and other foothill communities in southern California was a homecoming of sorts.
Two years after the fire, the hills this June were covered with wildflowers. One wonderful fire-follower with an adorable common name, poodle-dog bush, is tinting the mountains with a soft, light purple.
I wish I knew where the common name came from, but what I do know is probably more important. You do not want to pet this poodle-dog. Turricula parryi has a nasty irritant, with an effect not dissimilar to poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobia).
Blistery rash from inadvertently brushing against the plant appeared a couple of days after my trip to the mountains. Apparently I brushed my hand on my forehead and pinched the sides of my nostrils – leaving the telltale rash there too. It is mostly healed by now and I can report it is not nearly as itchy as poison oak, but do not let this fact make you careless. Do not touch!