January showers bring February flowers: Winter rain prompts an early return for scorpion weed
Thanks to nearly an inch of January rainfall, scorpion weed is in early bloom this week.
Scorpion weed often springs forth in late February and early March, and is recognized by its violet petal and jagged leaves. The plant’s flowers, stem and seed pods are covered in “hairs,” capable of transmitting an oil that can cause rashes and itching, in the same manner as poison ivy and poison oak.
Ike Webb, of Havasu Pest Control, has received calls every day for the past two weeks in reference to the weed.
“Seeds can lay dormant in the ground until moisture and oxygen get to those seeds,” Webb said. “There wasn’t a lot of moisture last year, and I believe (scorpion weed) is going to be a bigger problem this year … the rain isn’t over yet. The plants will die off when the weather is nicer, but they’ll drop their seeds, which will sprout again the next time it rains.”
Scorpion weed oil can be transferred directly from clothing, furniture, rugs and family pets that have been exposed to the plant. Rashes caused by scorpion weed can last between several days and more than a week after exposure.
“Don’t touch it,” Webb said. “For the most part, people here know what it is, but some snowbirds might see it as a pretty flower, pick it, put it in a vase and set it on their dining room table. This is one of the main pest-plants people come into contact with, and I usually have to advise people on what to do and not to do.”
Havasu residents or visitors who have a rash or other reaction to scorpion weed are advised against scratching the affected area, which will only cause skin irritation to spread. According to Webb, over-the-counter remedies such as calamine lotion can soothe a rash from scorpion weed, but people who are particularly sensitive might consider seeking the aid of a dermatologist.