(A. Gray) J.F. Macbr.
Turricula parryi, Eriodictyon parryi, Poodle-dog bush or Common turricula, is the only species currently classified in the genus Turricula, within the waterleaf subfamily, Hydrophylloideae. It is endemic to California and Baja California, and can be found from the southern Sierra Nevada and San Joaquin Valley southwards to Baja California.
It is found in chaparral, on slopes and ridges from 100 to 2300 meters, especially at the higher end of this elevation range. Its seeds can remain dormant in soil for long periods, with the plant springing up quickly when the soil is disturbed or after a wildfire. It is very common in areas burned by wildfires in the mountains of Southern California.
It grows into a moderate size, perennial woody shrub, branching from the base but with main stems extending for up to 3 meters. Is leaves are long and narrow, and may be toothed at the edge; they can be from 4 to 30 cm long. It flowers from June to August, having clusters (cymes) of attractive bell-shaped blue, lavender or purple flowers. However it has a rank smell. Its flower clusters and hairy stem are similar to those of many plants in the genus Phacelia, but it can be distinguished from them by its greater height.
When first described by Asa Gray, the poodle-dog bush was placed within genus Eriodictyon. It was subsequently moved to a genus of its own, and molecular phylogenetic analysis carried out by Ferguson (1998) confirms that Turricula should be treated as a separate genus within a clade (Ferguson does not use the term "subfamily") that includes Eriodictyon, and also the genera Nama and Wigandia; Eriodictyon is the genus to which Turricula is closest in molecular terms, and is its sister taxon.
Like many species in the forget-me-not family, poodle-dog bush causes severe irritation if touched, akin to poison oak or stinging nettle. It can raise blisters lasting as long as several weeks. There may be a delay of several days before the reaction starts. The hairs stick to skin and clothing and cannot be easily washed off with soap. The allergic contact dermatitis is due to prenylated phenolics exuded by hairs (glandular trichomes) of the plant. The principal irritants are derivatives of farnesyl hydroquinone and 3-farnesyl-P-hydroxybenzoic acid. Once the immune system has been sensitized to the irritant, later exposure can cause a memory response, in which previously exposed areas erupt even though they were not exposed the second time.
If clothes are contaminated, they should not be washed along with uncontaminated clothing. Washing may not be effective in removing the hairs. It is possible that the irritant can be removed by soaking in a 2 g/100 mL solution of sodium carbonate, which can be prepared by heating baking soda in an oven for an hour at 100 C (200 F).
Presumably because of its irritant properties, poodle-dog bush is rarely grown in gardens despite its attractive flowers, and it is difficult to grow in garden conditions.
Native Americans used the plant medicinally: Zigmond (1981, p. 68) reports that the Kawaiisu people used an infusion of the leaves to relieve swellings or rheumatism, and Sparkman (1908, p. 230) also reports that the Luiseño people (who knew it as Atovikut) used it medicinally, though he does not specify for what purpose. No clinical trials have been undertaken to support the efficacy of Turricula for these clinical conditions, and there is no reliable evidence that it can be used for any type of treatment.
- Prenylated Phenolics that Cause Contact Dermatitis from Glandular Trichomes of Turricula parryi. G. W. Reynolds, P. Proksch, E. Rodriguez, Planta Med., 1985; 51(6): 494-498 doi:10.1055/s-2007-969573
- Zigmond, M. L. (1981) Kawaiisu ethnobotany. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
- Photos of poodle-dog bush on the CalPhotos site
- Jepson manual treatment of the species
- USDA PLANTS database entry for the species
- Article about stinging properties of the bush from the Orange County Register
- Ferguson, D. M. (1998). Phylogenetic analysis and relationships in Hydrophyllaceae based on ndhF sequence data. Systematic Botany, 23, 253-268.
- Sparkman, P. S. (1908). The culture of the Luiseno Indians. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, 8(4), 187-234.