My husband and I live on 10 acres, most of which are woods and pasture. We used to have sheep and horses to eat up the long grass and keep the weeds at bay. Now that we don’t have any animals, these annoyingly prolific plants have taken over our front pasture, turning it into a regular weed-fest complete with a colony of stinging nettles. (If you’ve ever brushed up against these prickly pests you know what a pain they are, literally!) I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s poison ivy or oak lurking in our woods as well.
The fact is you’ll find menacing vegetation almost anywhere – in ditches, forests, fields and pastures, in your yard and garden, or even in potted outdoor plants.
Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors this summer, whether it’s hiking, gardening, playing sports, camping, or working in the yard. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of your surroundings and beware of plants that are poisonous.
Common Plants that Can Be Harmful to the Touch
Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac: These pestilent plants contain an oily sap called urushiol, which is found on the stems, leaves and roots of the plant. The tenacious resin sticks to practically any surface (clothing, shoes, garden tools, camping gear, athletic equipment, even pet hair) and can easily transfer to your skin, causing an itchy, red rash which could surface within hours or even up to four days after exposure. Visit poison-ivy.org for all the facts.
Wild Parsnip – often found along roadsides, in ditches, pastures and open fields, this wicked weed reacts to sunlight, resulting in serious burns and blisters. Read this recent report from CBS News It’s alarming!!
More Phototoxic Plants (ones that become toxic when exposed to sunlight): celery, carrots, dill, parsley, limes, and figs.
Chrysanthemums (aka, mums)
Flower bulbs (e.g., hyacinth, narcissus, daffodils, lilies, tulips)
Prickly plants like roses, thistle, cacti, wild blackberries and raspberries
Trumpet Creeper – it may look beautiful, but don’t be rash! Touching it may cause an allergic reaction, plus it’s slightly toxic if eaten.
Geraniums and Marigolds
Giant Hogweed – these umbrella-shaped flowers with big leaves can cause painful skin and eye irritations.
Tasty, but Deadly
Some people like to add petals or leaves to tea, salads and different culinary dishes or use them as garnish for desserts. And, oftentimes our pets will nibble on plants. But, there are several kinds of flowers and greenery that should never be on the menu as they can make you (or your furry friend) seriously ill.
Click here for an extensive list of poisonous plants and plant parts.
Not sure what plants are safe for your pets? You’ll find a list of toxic and non-toxic plants at aspca.org.
- Wear protective clothing (e.g., long sleeves, pants, shoes/boots with socks) when hiking in areas where these types of plants grow.
- Wear gloves when gardening, weeding, trimming shrubs, and doing yard work.
- Wash any garden tools, sports gear or other objects with soap and water after using them.
- If you think your pet’s been rolling around in poison ivy or other suspicious plants, give him a bath with pet shampoo and water (be sure to wear rubber gloves).
- Don’t burn poisonous plants as the noxious substance can go airborne and get in your eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs.
- Stay away from plants with three leaves (e.g., poison ivy and oak), but don’t rely solely on the “leaves of three, let them be” notion. Some, like Poison Sumac, can have up to 13 leaves.
- Rinse your skin with cold water right away – avoid soap, however, as it can spread the resin. Don’t forget to scrub under fingernails too.
- Take a cool, oatmeal bath – I recommend Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment – to help dry up any blisters and weeping rashes.
- Apply a topical cream or lotion with calamine and zinc oxide to affected areas.
- Take an oral antihistamine – like Benadryl – to help relieve some of the itching and skin irritation.
- If you experience a severe reaction – e.g., swelling, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, nausea, or signs of an infection – see a doctor or head to the emergency room immediately!
Since I’ve barely “scratched” the surface on this subject, I recommend doing some research on your own. Check out these sites to learn more about poisonous plants, what they look like, where to find them and the side effects.
Be careful out there!
Smart Perks Blogger Catherine B. has suddenly developed a case of Botanophobia (fear of plants).