Friday, May 14, 2010


The chechem trees are fruiting on our hill. I give them a wide berth, a really wide berth. That's because I know from personal experience that chechem, or black poisonwood, really is POISON -- or more accurately, contains a powerful allergen called urushiol. Reason enough to steer clear.

Brushing up against this tree, Metopium brownei, results in contact dermatitis. Like poison ivy, which is in the same family (Anacardiaceae) along with poison oak, poison sumac, mangos and cashews (yes, mangos and cashews!), some people are more sensitive than others.

Bruce is one of those people. He jokes that if he even sees poisonwood, he gets it. We've both had our bouts with it. It turns your skin to leather, itching, red, miserable leather and takes some time to heal. It can go systemic which happened to both of us, in our first years here, before we learned to recognize it. We were down and out for several days, dosing ourselves with antihistamines which seemed to have little to no affect.

That was before we learned of a powerful antidote that was readily available. And better yet, it normally grows near by chechem...