native plant strikes again


“Three San Francisco cops remain on disability after suffering “severe” reactions to poison oak during a Sept. 9 scuffle with a tree-branch-wielding homeless man in Golden Gate Park, police said Thursday.  The incident erupted about 9:15 a.m. when transient William Deegan, 39, became violent with a park ranger who approached him in a forested area near Transverse Drive. The ranger was reportedly trying to cite Deegan for illegally camping in the park. During a struggle, police said, Deegan allegedly struck and wounded the ranger with a tree limb.  Police officers who were called to the scene also had their hands full. The transient struck one of the officers in the head with a log, Richmond Police Station Capt. Sharon Ferrigno said.  The ranger and cop were treated at the scene for their head injuries. However, the stitched-up cop couldn’t simply return to his beat, police said, as he and two of his colleagues were exposed to poison oak while wrestling Deegan to the ground.”

via Cops out sick after Golden Gate Park skirmish exposes them to poison oak | Mike Aldax | Crime | San Francisco Examiner.

Poison Oak is a hazard for anyone who uses Golden Gate Park, not just the homeless and the park police.  And it surely wasn’t included in the original planting plans for the park.  But it has been growing in the park for a long time.

Poison Oak in Golden Gate Park, 1954, SFPL

And it IS a native plant (unlike the Himalayan blackberry and English Ivy that also grow rampantly in the park).  In recognition of this, there’s a magnificent specimen of Poison Oak (properly identified, pruned and kept in check) in the California section of the Botanical Garden.  And at this time of year, it turns deeply red and looks quite beautiful!

Poison Oak in the Botanical Garden/photo by Heath Massey


About fromthethicket

I'm a landscape historian and professor emeritus of landscape architecture, UC Davis. I live in San Francisco.
This entry was posted in fall foliage, health and safety, plants, san francisco botanical garden, urban ecology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to native plant strikes again

  1. I dont know if the poison oak was planted or is native in the park, however, it is ABSOLUTELY native to the area. I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains and it is thick within those redwoods! I ended up with poison oak probably over 2 dozen times growing up. I have not caught it since i have been an adult though. I have seen it in quantity in the park though for the last 20 years.

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