Posted on Leave a comment

Outdoor Hour Challenge: Poison Oak Nature Study

Brand New! Outdoor Hour Challenge

Poison Oak Nature Study

I raised my four children in California. Poison oak was always a part of our outdoor time together. Whether it was hiking a favorite trail, or just visiting grandparents, poison oak was just a part of the landscape. It was very important to me that my children could spot poison oak and avoid any contact as much as possible.

Here is something you can teach your children:

Leaves of three… let it be!

Use this week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge to prepare your family for a possible encounter with poison oak in your future.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Poison Oak nature study

Gather some facts about poison oak:

  • Read about poison oak in your field guide or online here: Poison Oak.
  • Here’s a printable information sheet about poison oak: USDA Poison Oak.

Make sure to look at the images so you can easily identify this poisonous plant during your outdoor time. As an alternate study, you could learn about poison ivy instead.

See the Creepy things ebook for more poison oak nature study ideas, videos, and printables!

Please note that I will not be posting the complete challenge here on the blog. You’ll find the detailed challenge in the Creepy Things ebook that’s available both in the Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level memberships. Sign into your account and download the ebook for the details, more links, and notebook pages.

Download a sample from the Creepy Things ebook here: Banana Slug Nature Study.

Creepy Thing Ebook Cover image

We will soon be finishing up this Creepy Things series of nature studies and starting the Autumn Nature Study (2015 edition) ebook. It hardly seems possible that it’s time for the new school year to begin. But, I’m anxious to welcome all of the new families that will be joining us on September 4th.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020It’s not too late to purchase a membership and become a part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

2020 to 2021 plan graphic with ebook covers2



Posted on 7 Comments

Wildflowers – Sierra Spring 2011 (Part 3)

Natural Bridge landscape
Perfect day for a hike but a lot of pollen in the air.

I was determined to take a hike last weekend even though conditions were still windy and the pollen count was off the scale. I did something I rarely do and that is to take an antihistamine. Sometimes they work just fine and then other times they make me feel worse so it was a gamble. Other than feeling tired more quickly, I think it ended up being a good day outdoors.

Wildflowers and Creek
Looking down from about half way to the water.

Some of the family had other plans so in the end it was my husband, my oldest son, and I who hit the trail. I like hiking in small groups so this worked out great for taking our time and quietly enjoying the views and wildflowers.There were a few other families on the trail but everyone was friendly.

Unidentified Flower 2

I had my usual wildflower game going where I try to name the flowers as we pass them by…mostly in my head but sometimes out loud if the guys happened to stop to point one out. This plant is something new and we almost missed it growing right along the trail in a rock face.

Unidentified Flower
How it can manage to grow stuck right in the crack of the rock is amazing. You can see the delicate yellow flowers with the cute little pansy-like faces. It is always frustrating to me when I can’t readily identify a plant, although I think I learn more when I have to really break the plant down and look at its parts to work with the field guide. I will come back to edit if I discover the name of this one.

Poppies in the Rock

Here is another angle where you can see a poppy determined to grow right in the same crack. The rock is along a steep section of the trail and there was much graffiti scratched into the surface.

Ferns in a Rock

How about a fern on the same rock?

Back to the hike…it was warm and there were birds singing practically the whole way down to the water (which was our destination).

Hiking Landscape
We had parked at the top of the canyon and began the trail which wound around and down a steep grade. We took our time and noticed quite a bit of poison oak already flourishing at the trail’s edge and I was so glad we didn’t have the dog with us. She is oblivious to poison oak.

This plant is growing in patches alongside the trail on rocky outcrops. It is a striking color and seems to grow right on the rocks. I believe it is a variety of Dudleya, perhaps this one.

Chinese Lanterns
More Chinese lanterns in the shady spots….love this flower.

I have been noticing the abundance of thistle this year. It is very pretty right now with its purple flowers.

Tidy Tips

This is one trail where I know to look for Tidy tips. Look carefully and you will notice the notice the difference between this and other yellow flowers.

Maverick Clover

I really want to take the time to record this flower in my nature journal, partly because it is my favorite color but also because I like the way when you slow down to observe it closely it has the purple dots on the petals that seem to point the way for insects to come and investigate its pollen.

Natural Bridge
So this was our destination….the natural bridge. The creek comes right through the rocks here in this spot….looks like a cave but it is more like a tunnel. You can wade through the water and come out the other side if you want to, which I don’t. We were content to enjoy the sound of the water rushing through the rock and seeing the water cascading down at the opening.

Natural Bridge 2

There are formations on the top that are covered in moss…stalactites from the top rock that hang down. Sort of on the creepy side but still very interesting.

We reached our destination and found a place to sit on the rocks to rest and enjoy the setting. There were quite a number of birds including robins, towhees, swallows, and one bird that sang and sang and sang. I had my mini binoculars with me and I was able to capture a glimpse at him in a tree on the other side of the creek. Between the song and the quick look, I identified him as a Black-headed grosbeak.

We sat near the water for quite a long time just enjoying our first real spring hike of the year. We drank some water and then started back up the hill to the car. Even with allergies, allergy head, and with the heat, I was able to keep up with the men.


One last interesting image from the day….bright orange lichen covered many of the rocks. What a punch of color!

Hope you enjoyed seeing our spring hike and some of our wildflowers….more to come. You can count on that.

Posted on 9 Comments

Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Sumac: Leaves of Three!

Poison Ivy Oak Sumc @handbookofnaturestudy

It is very important for those of us who take our children out into the woods for nature study to be able to recognize poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac.

Where we live we have an abundance of poison oak and this time of the year it is actually very pretty and easy to identify. I know in other parts of the country there is poison ivy and sumac as well.

Here is a very informative link for you to click through:

This video does a great job of explaining everything you should know before you take a walk in the woods and potentially come into contact with poison oak, poison ivy, or sumac. Knowledge is always a good thing.

My husband says that in his job as a wildland firefighter, they use Tecnu after any exposure. We are going to get some and have it on hand for those times we think we may have come into contact with poison oak.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will try to find answers for you as best I can. I would hate for you to unknowingly expose anyone to something potentially dangerous. On the other hand, don’t get too worried either. Just remember the “leaves of three, let it be” rule and you should do a good job of avoiding contact. We have had our share of poison oak rashes in our family and I think most of our exposure comes from our family pets. Don’t miss that part of the video.

We have quite a few new participants in the Outdoor Hour Challenges so I want to give a big welcome to everyone….hope to see your nature study entries soon.