Site hosted by Build your free website today!



Things That Say "Keep Away!" 
  those with thorns or stickers
poison ivy, poison oak, nettles and poison sumac
Please Don't Eat The Berries  
Heading Off Trouble
10 Rules For Safe Camping With Hazardous Plants

List of Some Poisonous Plants

Many plants,both wild and cultivated-
can cause all kinds of grief. 
Some will induce illness or kill when eaten,
 others give off toxic smoke when burned.
 Some irritate skin, 
and still others can inflict a nasty puncture wound.

Although anyone who ventures out of doors is at some risk of encountering hazardous plants, which risk increases when time is spent in the woods. And when camping, which usually occurs during the warmer months when plants are green and growing, there's likely to be a run-in with some of Mother Nature's bad boys.

Campers need to remember that each region of the country has its own hazardous plants.
If you go from Florida to Michigan or to California, you have a whole different set of actors.
You can be an expert on the plants in your area, but if you go somewhere else, all your knowledge and experience won't help you. So even though you may be an experienced camper, going into a new environment means a whole new set of risks.

It's all in the name of protection

Why do plants have thorns, stickers, irritating sap or poisonous berries? 
It's all in the name of protection.

Plants have lots of good nutrients in them, so they defend themselves against being eaten or damaged. Plants can't run away. If they don't defend themselves some way, like by growing real tall like a tree or by having thorns, they'll become extinct in short order. So most plants, including a lot of food plants in the raw stage, anyway, have lots of defensive chemicals in them."

Plants' defense mechanisms can be divided into three types 
(with some overlap): 
thorns and other physical means to keep critters away; 
chemicals that cause skin irritation of some kind; 
toxins that cause illness or death if you eat them. 

Things That Say "Keep Away!"

The least malevolent group of plants you'll run into is those with thorns or stickers. Although most encounters with this group of plants result in nothing more than scratches, there's still the potential for more serious problems.

"A puncture wound is a puncture wound, it's a way for bacteria to get in, or there's a possibility you can get tetanus. A puncture with a thorn can push bacteria into the body where the body's not ready for it."

The most obvious category of plants that can cause puncture wounds is cactuses. Others include blackberries and related species. Then there are grasses with thorny seeds, and a variety of vines and other plants with stickers or thorns.

About the only thing you can do to protect yourself against these plants is to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, as well as a good pair of walking shoes or light hiking boots.
Then be aware of your surroundings, and be careful where you walk. 
If you do get a puncture would of some kind, get the thorn out, make sure the area is clean, and keep an eye on it. If you notice the area getting red and infected, visit your doctor before an abscess sets in.


The most obvious culprits in this category are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.
Although those three are the major players, they certainly aren't the only plants that can cause some kind of skin irritation.

 Some people develop contact dermatitis from Virginia creeper, a vine that's common in woodland camping areas all over the eastern U.S.
Other people can develop a rash from touching the white sap of milkweed.

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac bother about eighty percent of the population. What actually happens is that the toxin in poison ivy, an oil called urushiol, binds the protein in the skin, and your body reacts to that combination of protein and oil."

Many other plants can cause a contact irritation of some kind, including parsnip and celery. An exotic weed, Giant Hogweed, can cause a severe skin rash for people who are sensitive to it.

Giant Hogweed looks like wild parsnip but it's enormous. It's about 10 feet tall and looks like something out of a dinosaur movie. That stuff really rips you up.

The danger from these plants goes beyond what happens when you touch them. When you start a campfire, if you happen to grab dried leaves from some of these plants for tinder, or burn vines or branches from them, you can be setting yourself up for some serious problems.

Burning these plants can be very dangerous! 
The oil can be carried on smoke particles, and smoke particles can be inhaled or can reach different parts of the body. People get really sick that way. Another, less obvious way to have trouble is to handle someone's clothing after they've been in contact with one of these plants, or pet the dog after he's rolled in them, or otherwise have secondary contact with the plant oils.

The good news is that for most people, there are ways to prevent problems. When you get out in the woods around your campsite, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect your skin. Then if you realize you've had contact with one of these bad actors, you can solve the problem with soap and water. By washing well within 15 or 20 minutes, most of the time you'll get the plant oils off before you start to develop a rash.

Do NOT scratch! 
No matter how bad it gets, if you scratch, it's only going to get worse. After you get all washed up, then you're safe, but until then, anytime you touch it, and then touch somewhere or someone else, you're going to spread it. So, wash your hands, wash the area where you were exposed, and then remember to wash your hands again!

Also, women shouldn't shave their legs before they go out. 
When you do, you don't have that dead skin layer to wash off.

A couple of common beliefs about poison ivy are untrue. 
Once you've washed the oil off, you can't spread the rash around on your body.

It just seems that way because sometimes one part of the body reacts more slowly than other parts, so it seems to spread. Also, occasionally people get secondary infections, and it's theoretically possible that you can spread that from one place to another. But the poison ivy rash itself is not contagious."

No discussion of irritating plants would be complete without a mention of nettle.
 This little plant can cause an instantaneous and nasty burning sensation when you brush against it.

Nettles have microscopic cells that shoot tiny needles out. They inject histamine that causes a nasty rash. Fortunately, it only lasts about 20 minutes of so. It just feels awful until it wears off.  In extreme cases, taking an antihistamine will help.

poison ivy, poison oak, and nettles

Obnoxious plants, indeed! 
The best prevention is to learn to identify these plants, then avoid any contact. 

Should you touch one of these plants, do not scratch, and wash the area in cold water. Should you develop a rash, use a topical solution like calamine lotion.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first drug that protects people against poison ivy rash. The new drug, called bentoquatam, also shields against related plants, such as poison oak, and is expected to be available in 1997.

Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

The small oak leaves grow in set of three on a stem. If you're not sure, then stay away from it anyway, just to err on the side of caution.

POISON OAK- It can make your best campout or day hike turn into a total nightmare. You really gotta know what this stuff looks like in both colors & stay away from it. Spring is bright green, late summer is starting to turn red & slightly brownish-orangish. Hike in pants of you think you may be coming in contact with it on overgrown trails.

growing wild all over California under 5000' elevation 

can spread from you clothes to your body with indirect contamination 

do not burn the plant (leaves or vines) for any reason 

poison ivy is not found on the west coast 

Do not put your hands near your eyes, it spreads easily.


Watch out for this seemingly harmless little vine or shrub in the woods. 
Note the three-part leaves with jagged edges . . .

Notice also the color and configuration of Poison Ivy berries . . .



Myths vs. Facts


Poison Ivy rash is contagious.

Rubbing the rashes won't spread poison ivy to other parts of your body (or to another person). You spread the rash only if urushiol oil -- the sticky, resinlike substance that causes the rash -- has been left on your hands.


You can catch poison ivy simply by being near the plants 

Direct contact is needed to release urushiol oil. Stay away from forest fires, direct burning, or anything else that can cause the oil to become airborne such as a lawnmower, trimmer, etc.

Leaves of three, let them be 

Poison sumac has 7 to 13 leaves on a branch, although poison ivy and oak have 3 leaves per cluster.

Do not worry about dead plants 

Urushiol oil stays active on any surface, including dead plants, for up to 5 years.

Breaking the blisters releases urushiol oil that can spread 

Not true. But your wounds can become infected and you may make the scarring worse. In very extreme cases, excessive fluid may need to be withdrawn by a doctor.

I've been in poison ivy many times and never broken out. I'm immune.

Not necessarily true. Upwards of 90% of people are allergic to urushiol oil, it's a matter of time and exposure. The more times you are exposed to urushiol, the more likely it is that you will break out with an allergic rash. For the first time sufferer, it generally takes longer for the rash to show up - generally in 7 to 10 days.

Please Don't Eat the Daisies . . .

 or The Berries 

Poisonous plants fall into several categories, each with different characteristics. Some plants can cause problems if eaten; others, if touched. Plants like poison ivy and other indoor and outdoor plants can cause a contact dermatitis. Certain plants can cause swelling internally; others will affect the heart and vital organs. Plants like cacti can be dangerous simply because of their physical characteristics (their spines).

The best rule of thumb when you're camping: 
Don't eat anything you don't absolutely know.
 And even when you think you know something, question your knowledge, especially when you're in an area with which you're unfamiliar.

Don't be out there wild-crafting. Don't pretend you know what an edible plant is if you don't.  And don't think that just because a plant looks like an edible plant that it is, especially if you don't know the botany of a particular area.

A lot of plants look kind of alike. Wild carrot, parsnip, poison hemlock and water hemlock are all different, but they look a lot alike.
 A lot of people have killed themselves thinking they were really cool going out and eating wild carrot or wild parsnip, and they're eating water hemlock. And there's nothing you can do for them,
they're dead before you can get them to town.

The same rules apply to mushrooms. 
Some mushrooms are incredibly deadly.

Liver damage from eating wild mushrooms is one of the leading reasons that people need emergency liver transplants. Some of them cause complete liver failure. A lot of times people get a false recovery after a few days they don't feel sick anymore and they think they're okay.
Then their liver completely collapses.



Nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting. Difficulty breathing, coughing of blood, may or may not turn blue, lethargy and convulsion. There may be burn marks in or around the mouth.

If you suspect a child has eaten a nonfood plant:

Get help immediately if:

The person is unconscious or not breathing.

There are any signs of poisoning.
Contact your local Poison Information Centre.

1. CALL YOUR POISON CONTROL CENTER IMMEDIATELY. Don't take any action before you seek advice from your local poison control center. Poison control will give different advice based on what's been ingested. For instance, some plants are too caustic to induce vomiting. If your child's throat is swollen or he or she has difficulty breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number.

2. IF YOU MUST GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM, TAKE THE PLANT OR REMNANTS OF THE PLANT WITH YOU. Particularly if you couldn't identify the plant to poison control, the physician or other staff at the emergency room may be able to identify what exactly was ingested. They will be able to decide a course of action based on knowledge of the plant your child ate. Remember that it is better to identify your plants first, so that the physicians won't have to take the worst-case action.

Home treatment

If the person is not breathing, do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but first check for poisonous material around the mouth. Wash the area around the person’s mouth and if necessary, use a barrier device.

Establish the following: what poison was taken; the amount; how the poison entered the body; when the poison was taken. Phone the Poison Information Centre and ask for instructions of what to do.

Keep a sample of what the person has taken, even if it is an empty container or leaves of a poisonous plant.

Never try to induce vomiting as this could cause further damage. Some poisons, especially corrosive substances can cause further damage during vomiting.

Do not give fluid, including Syrup of Ipecac, or activated charcoal
 unless told to do so by the Poison Information Centre.

Heading Off Trouble

With a little planning and preparation before going camping, most of the hazards associated with toxic plants can be avoided. Do a little research.
What plants are a serious problem in the area where you'll be camping? 
Find out whom to call in that area in the event of a poisoning incident.

Then select the campsite with care. Don’t pitch a tent in the middle of a patch of poison ivy. And watch out for widow-makers—overhead limbs or dead trees that may fall on you.
After camp is established, remove any hazardous plants, including mushrooms, to avoid coming in contact with them later.

Always be sure of what you’re burning. A wood fire smells great, but the smoke from toxic plants can be just as dangerous as the plant itself, if touched.

10 Rules For Safe Camping With Hazardous Plants

Here are some basic rules for keeping both you and your children out of trouble with hazardous plants when camping:

Learn before you go.
Do some research at the library or on the Internet and find out which plants in the area where you'll be camping are the most dangerous.

Check with the sheriff's department, police department, or hospital in the area where you'll be camping, get the telephone number of the nearest poison information center, and keep it easily accessible in your car or camper.

Choose the campsite carefully. Don't camp under a tree you know is toxic, or in an area with a lot of poison ivy or other plants with irritating sap.

Don't camp under a tree with a lot of dead branches in it-a falling branch can cause injuries when it hits.

Teach children that putting anything in their mouths is dangerous.

Carry one bottle of Syrup of Ipecac in your camper or car for each child under six.
(Don't use it unless a physician or poison information center tells you to do so.)

Remove wild mushrooms and small toxic plants from the campsite; use gloves, not bare hands.

If a child puts something in his or her mouth that you suspect is toxic, call the poison information center immediately.

Use wood only from known sources in your campfire. The smoke from poison ivy or other toxic plants can be just as dangerous as the plant itself.

Below is a partial list of toxic plants.



Begonia, sand

Bird of Paradise

Black nightshade berry


Butterfly weed


Calamondin orange tree

Calla lily


Castor bean


Chinese Tollow

Christmas berry






Deadly nightshade

Devils Ivy




Elephant ears

English holly/English ivy






Golden chain

Holly berry



Hydrangea blossom




Jequirity bean

Jerusalem cherry

Jimson weed






May Apple



Morning glory

Needlepoint ivy






Poison ivy

Poison oak

Poison sumac


Potato plant





Skunk cabbage


Spathe flower

String of pearls

Tomato leaves


Violet seeds

Water Hemlock

Wild carrots

Wild cucumber

Wild parsnip

Wild peas


Yew tree


And by the way, daisies, if you were wondering, 
are considered toxic plants, but they are not as poisonous as other plants.
They contain pyrethrins, which can irritate the skin or the stomach if large quantities are ingested. Pyrethrin compounds are used in lice preparations, animal flea control, and indoor insecticides.

So, please . . .

don't eat the daisies.

Click on a site below to learn more about poisonous plants.


Click here to go to The FUNdamentals of Camping Homepage
Click here to see EVERY TOPIC in this Website

           Copyright © 2000 Jon's Images, Inc. All rights reserved   

Disclaimer II: The information provided here is for educational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. The Webmaster of FUNdamentals of Camping and/or assume no responsibility for how this material is used. Please check with a physician if you suspect you are ill. Also note that while The Webmaster of FUNdamentals of Camping frequently updates its contents, medical information changes rapidly. Therefore, some information may be out of date.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ - By printing, downloading, or using  any info from this site, you agree to our full terms. Review the full terms by clicking here. Below is a summary of some of the terms. If you do not agree to the full terms, do not use the information. All information on this web site is provided as a free service. Under no conditions does it constitute professional advice. No representations are made as to the completeness, accuracy, comprehensiveness or otherwise of the information provided. This site is considered publishers of this material, not authors. Information may have errors or be outdated. Some information is from historical sources or represents opinions of the author. It is for research purposes only. The information is "AS  IS", "WITH ALL FAULTS". User assumes all risk of use, damage, or injury. You agree that we have no liability for any damages. We are not liable for any consequential, incidental, indirect, or special damages. You indemnify us for claims caused by you.