Yes, we’ll say it out loud: poison oak can be beautiful.

Indeed, the green summer color of poison oak’s foliage turns toward brilliant tawny reds during the fall season.

This is what we are now seeing at Santa Margarita Ranch (from afar, of course–you don’t have to worry about rubbing up against this plant during any of our tours!). Among the woodlands of the Santa Lucia Mountains, the poison oak shrubs are aflame with autumnal hues, adding splashes of rich color to the palette of our natural environment.

Western poison oak is native to the woodlands and mountains of the California coast. Of course, this plant has the name poison oak for a reason. If you come in contact with this plant’s oil, called urushiol, you will likely develop an itchy rash at the point of contact. It’s not truly “poisonous,” but rather allergenic.

So enjoy the fall colors of this inconvenient plant, and just remember to keep your distance when hiking here on the California coast.

This post belongs to our SPOTTED series, featuring the rich animal and plant kingdoms that inhabit Santa Margarita Ranch. Click here to book your best California zipline tour or wildlife tour.