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Poodle-dog Bush is not the name of a former President’s canine companion. Rather, this exotic-looking plant is a California native which appears only after a forest fire or similar disturbance. A moderately-sized woody-shrub, Turricula parryi is the only member of a specific family of plants, the Turricula, and is distantly related to other colorfully-named plants like ‘Fiddleneck’, ‘Forget-me-not’ and ‘Hounds Tongue’ (which just continues the entire ‘dog’ theme they’ve got going).

In the early summer, Poodle-dog is brilliantly covered in spectacular clusters of purple-blue, bell-shaped flowers that look much better than they smell. And that smell is an important clue that there’s something else that sets this plant apart – it’s in fact toxic to many people, resulting in a painful rash and blisters if the plant is touched or flowers picked or in any way contacts skin. This is probably a defense P-dog has developed to prevent being eaten by animals that like to eat plants and flowers. No one wants to eat something that makes their mouth blister and burn, so Poodle is protected and can fulfill its real job – helping areas that were devastated by fire or other damage recover and grow into a healthy forest.

The seeds of this plant can sit dormant for years, but after a fire when there’s less competition from other plants, the seeds spring into growth and in just a few weeks time an area that appeared barren is covered with Poodle-dog, helping to stabilize the soil, create opportunities for other plants, provide shelter to birds and animals, and help restore the environment. So remember, if you ever see this bush, look but don’t touch!  Just like the furry-poodle, this dogs’ bite is worse than its’ bark. Well, actually the bark is probably just about as toxic as any other part of the plant so just don’t touch anything.

But while Poodle-dog might not be mans best friend, it’s a special plant that the forest literally couldn’t live without.

Turricula flower CSUSB

A Poodle-dog bush

Eeyore Poodle WIKI

A poodle-dog, in the bush

Posted July 11, 2012 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in ECOVIA Central

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