Backcountry Camping

Poisonous plants that will ruin your hike

One of the best ways to enjoy nature as well as stay healthy is to go hiking. Nature has a lot of picture-perfect beauty to offer, from plants and animals to trees and grass. While it is all fun to go hiking and appreciate nature, many things could ruin your outdoor adventure. Behind those plush fields, there could be some life-threatening risks that we are oblivious of.

And, really, I’m not talking about the dangerous bears or the dreaded deadly snakes. No!

One of the other risks is some specific poisonous plants that can make you ill. Although seemingly harmless, some of these plants can cause you extreme itchiness, painful rash, and irritation that can see you spending the next few days in a hospital. If you come across any of the following plants while you are out hiking, stay at arm’s length because they are poisonous.

Poisonous plants to watch out for when hiking

Wild parsnip

Wild parsnip is a wildflower that looks so much like Queen Anne’s Lace. The plant blooms from May through June with beautiful flowers. The plant’s origin can be traced to Europe and according to some reports, its roots were a delicacy at some point. As beautiful as the plant looks, it contains a poisonous substance that goes by the nameΒ psoralen.

If your skin is touched by the substance and then exposed to sunlight, you’ll get a reaction calledΒ phytophotodermatitis. The results are scalding and burning pain, blisters, reddening of the skin and a rash. The skin turns to a brownish or reddish discoloration starting from the point of blisters and burns. This condition can go on for months.

Poison ivy

Poison ivy is one of the most commonly found poison plants. This is because it not only grows in the wild but in open fields too. Though the plant is not true ivy, its resemblance to the ivy earned it the name. One of the most prominent features that people recognize it by is its three leaves. Depending on the season, the leaves range from reddish to a light green color. Poison ivy contains Urushiol Oil, a substance that is poisonous to the skin.

Any contact with the plant causes the skin to become red and to break out with an itchy rash. The poison can remain on clothes, shoes, pets, and tools for a long time. It is therefore very important to wash off any poison ivy residue after exposure.

Poison Oak

This is a leafy plant considered to be one of the most poisonous plants. It takes different forms, either as a tall bush or as a tiny sprout. Poison oak easily attaches itself to trees and hangs its leaves into paths. The leaves are either yellow or green depending on the season. Poison oak sometimes has no leaves and if you think the sticks are safe, they are not. Any contact with the skin will cause a breakout and rashes that develop into painful blisters.

Poison sumac

Also known asΒ thunderwoood, poison sumac is a shrub that grows up to almost 30 feet high. The leaf is easily recognizable by the main that comprises 7 to 13 leaflets. The leaves have a sharp pointed tip and are oblong shaped. They are orange in color and turn to a dark green before finally turning into an orange-red color. The plant produces yellow flowers that later mature into fruits. On contact with the skin, this plant produces the same effects as the poison ivy and poison oak.


Also known as, the tree of death, Manchineel produces pomes that look like apples. The pomes grow to about two inches and they are very poisonous. The fruits of the tree are not the only poisonous parts of the plant. Any contact with any part of Manchineel will cause your skin to burn, turn red and break into blisters. Even a simple thing as standing next to the tree can become a nightmare. It is also advisable not to ingest any part of the tree because it is lethal.

Stinging nettle

Known for its medicinal purposes, the stinging nettle can become a sure-fire to ruin your outing if your skin gets into contact with its hairs. The tiny hairs of the nettle sting like needles. The irritants caused by the hairs can cause blisters and an itchy burning skin sensation. The plant grows in open spaces, ditches and along streams.


The above are some of the plants you should keep a keen eye out for next time you go hiking. Recognizing these and other poisonous plants will save you from ruining your hike. You do want to spend the next few days, weeks days or even months nursing blisters and broken skin.

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