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10.3: Toxicodendron diversilobum: Pacific Poison Oak

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Common Name

  • Pacific Poison Oak
  • Western Poison Oak
  • Poison Oak

Description

Toxicodendron diversilobum, or poison oak, can both grow as a shrub and a vine. It’s leaves are made of three leaflets with small teeth on each of the leaflets. They are two to six feet in height. If it gets hold of a sapling, or new tree, it could possibly kill it. When you touch it, the sap from it gets on your skin, eventually causing an allergic reaction that feels like a stinging sensation. It takes 100 nanograms of the allergen urushiol to get a reaction in more sensitive people. Also, this plant, as well as poison ivy, cause very painful reactions. So it’s a good idea not to touch poison ivy or poison oak, and especially to be careful in areas such as abandoned mines, forests, near rivers, ghost towns, and abandoned fields, which is where they flourish. The plant blooms in March and April.

The complete taxonomic classification is:

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Phylum: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Magnoliopsida
  • Order: Sapindales
  • Family: Anacardiaceae
  • Genus: Toxicodendron
  • Species: T. diversilobum

Habitat

Western poison oak appears at the southwestern point of Canada, stretching down through the Pacific Coast down to Baja California. They grow in moist soil with plenty of sunlight in elevations below 1,650m. There are some other sightings of western poison oak in other regions of California and some unregistered sightings of western poison oak in Nevada.

Biology

Cell Biology

As a member of the Kingdom Plantae, T. diversilobum is made of eukaryotic cells. The cells of T. diversilobum have a protective barrier called the plasma membrane. They are also made of many organelles, structures like small organs that help the cell function. The nucleus contains the DNA with instructions for the cell, making it a eukaryotic cell. mRNA is produced by the nucleus, and ribosomes translate mRNA into proteins. The mitochondria produces ATP (adenosine trisphosphate), which powers the cell. Vesicles transport materials within the cell or outside the cell. Lysosomes, a type of vesicle, take all the waste from the cell and takes it away. Endoplasmic reticulum is split into two parts, the rough endoplasmic reticulum and the smooth endoplasmic reticulum. The rough endoplasmic reticulum has ribosomes attached to it which create proteins that are released inside of the endoplasmic reticulum. It is then sent to the Golgi apparatus. The smooth endoplasmic reticulum creates lipids. The Golgi apparatus tells where the proteins from the endoplasmic reticulum where to go. The cytoskeleton gives the cell it’s shape. Since T. diversilobum is a plant, it has a couple of extra organelles. One is a large, central vacuole that stores the cell’s water and nutrients. The cell wall acts as extra protection in addition to the plasma membrane and provides structure. Chloroplasts make the plant green and allow for photosynthesis.

T. diversilobum cells divide by mitosis, where the nucleus divides, and the new cells have the same chromosomes (they are genetically identical) as their parent. Another way that cells divide is through meiosis, where the new cells have only half the chromosomes of the parent cell.

Evolution

The first plant ever was ancestral green algae. The first plants that were found on solid ground were bryophytes such as hornworts, liverworts, and mosses. They were low-growing plants since they didn’t have any vascular tissue. Vascular tissue are tubes inside the plant that carry nutrients and water to the leaves so that they can use photosynthesis. They also carry the sugar made by the photosynthesis to other parts of the plant for storage. Ferns and some similar plants have vascular tissue which helps them grow tall. These plants reproduce with spores, and the spores need moisture.

After the ferns came the gymnosperms. Some gymnosperms include pines and firs. Their seeds are enclosed in cones but not completely enclosed. The last of the phases in evolution is the flowering plants. They produce seeds after having their flowers pollinated. Their seeds are inside the part of the flower that becomes the fruit. Flowering plants are the most abundant. T. diversilobum is a flowering plant.

Ecology

There are many animals that can eat T. diversilobum, such as deer, rats, sheep, and goats. Birds would eat then disperse T. diversilobum seeds.

Anatomy and Physiology

T. diversilobum is a dicot, which means that it has both female and male reproductive systems on the same plant. As T. diversilobum is a vine, it has a long stem that have other stems coming out of the main vine. The leaves then come out of those smaller stems. It’s leaves are made of three leaflets with small teeth on each of the leaflets. Its sap contains urushiol, which can cause an allergic reaction. T. diversilobum has tiny, white flowers.

References

Attribution

Authors

  • John D. Carpenter
  • Andoni Sanguesa

Supervising Faculty

  • Amy Huff Shah

Affiliation

  • Museum School, San Diego, California

Status

  • Published prior to review.

Edit History

  • Created: April 5, 2013
  • Version 1.0 submitted to CK-12: July 4, 2013
  • CK-12 edits: in progress

Level

  • Middle School (grades 6-8)

Opening image copyright by Ralph Loesche, 2011. Used under license from Shutterstock.com.

Image Attributions

Description

Categories:

Grades:

6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12

Date Created:

Jul 18, 2013

Last Modified:

Sep 06, 2014
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