S When Plants
Foliage that packs a bite
The rider telling others to look out
for a specific unfriendly plant usually
isn’t able to identify the plant himself.
You’ve heard the old saying, “Leaves of
three, let it be” but look around and all
the leaves on all the bushes seem to be
clumped into trios. Eventually, we end
up obliviously barreling down the trail
While spectators and fam- ily members may imagine jagged rocks and never-ending cliffs being the source of all
mountain biking distress, trail riders know that our biggest enemies
often blend in perfectly with their
surroundings. They attack with lasting effect and often leave us wishing we’d found ourselves among the
jagged rocks instead. Tackling the
most technical climb of our favorite
trail and finishing the loop with a
celebratory whip, we arrive at home
feeling accomplished and—yes,
we’ll say it—stoked. We sit down
with the family and try to explain
the bliss we just experienced
until—wait, what’s that? Our left
leg is itching right above the sock.
We’ve just now noticed the itch,
but we’ve been scratching it subconsciously for the last few minutes.
We rationalize that it’s probably just
three hours of salty sweat buildup.
Putting it behind us and finishing
up the night as we revel in our own
glory, we wake up the next morning
looking like a mangy abomination
of the Michelin Man. Poison oak has
had its way with us once again.
Poison oak: 17. Us: 0.
Ocotillo: Not all plants need to be toxic to pack a bite. Spread out from California to
Texas, ocotillo is actually a plant rather than a cactus. They have been known to reach
heights of 30 feet tall as they snug up to the edges of many desert trails. Adorned in
thorns and growing in whips, they grab and poke right into skin without hesitation.
Their massive size and overwhelming presence make them a difficult plant to accidentally nudge up against, but they have been known to create an unforgiving landing pad
after choosing the wrong line. Just like trees, try to fall between, rather than into, them.
Wild parsnip: While it may be found speckled across nearly all of North America, it’s
certainly the most prevalent in America’s northeast corner. While it may blend in as
nothing more than an overgrown weed, or maybe even mustard from a distance, it’s
the only plant on our list with photo-reactive toxins in its sap. Essentially, the combination of the sap and a blaring sun will create a burn worse than any sunburn you’ve
ever had. If you come into contact with wild parsnip, be sure to cover the exposed
area from the sun and wash with soap as soon as possible. The roots (edible parsnip)
do not carry any of the toxins, but be prepared for blisters if you allow any other area
of the plant to contact you. The only states free of its wrath are Mississippi, Alabama,
Georgia, Florida and Hawaii. Photo by MinnesotaSeasons.com