6 Plants to Stay Away From While Camping or Hiking

Be sure to read this guide to know which species of the Plant Kingdom might appear decent but are deadly!

Spending a day or two hiking out is enjoyable, fun and there is lots of adrenaline rush. If you are hiking first-time, you might be tempted to explore further and in a rush to get extra energy, you might end up eating some fruits or explore nearby sceneries or trees nearby that might cause your trip to end early or send you to a direct trip to the hospital courtesy of mother nature.

If you took up Botany in High School or University, you pretty much know this stuff that we are going to be mentioning or if you skipped or didn’t think botany was important and didn’t take it, worry not this article will give you all the relevant information to navigate through your trip and help you arrive at your home safely. In this Article, we are going to cover the top 6 dangerous, toxic plants in North America known to mankind and more not so friendly trees or fruits and un-pleasantries of mother nature will be covered in a future article.

So, here is our list of topĀ 6 Plants to Stay Away From While Camping or Hiking in order to have a fun, safe and exciting adventure. So how are plants dangerous and what do you mean ? Well, at number 1 is:

Water Hemlock

Settle Outdoor - 6 Plants to Stay Away From While Camping or Hiking - Water HemlockCommon Names: Water Hemlock, cowbane, Poison Parsnip

Scientific Name: cicuta

Toxic Parts: Stem, Leaves

Habitat: Wet meadows, streambanks, marshy areas

Height: up to 8.2 ft

Color: Stem is purple striped, mottled

Water Hemlock is a highly poisonous plant and located in most parts of Canada. The plant has distinctive small green or white flowers arranged in an umbrella shape. It is one of the most toxic plants in North America because of the fact they contain a toxic called ‘cicutoxin’ which causes seizures upon its indigestion.


Settle Outdoor - 6 Plants to Stay Away From While Camping or Hiking - Manchineel TreeCommon names: Manchineel,Ā manchioneel,Ā mancinella, beach apple

Scientific name:Ā Hippomane mancinella

Toxic Parts: Sap, fruit

Habitat: Coastal beaches, Brackish swamps, Mangroves

Height: up to 49 ft

Color: Reddish-Greyish bark,Ā small greenish-yellow flowers, and shiny green leaves

Specific Features: Leaves are simple, alternate, very finely serrated or toothed, and 5ā€“10Ā cm (2ā€“4Ā in) long.

Manchineel tree is native to North America (Florida, Mexico) and parts of South America (Carribean, Bahamas). Manchineel which is a Spanish term means “little apple” and its fruits and leaves resemble those of an apple tree. Manchineel trees are one of the most dangerous trees in the world.

All parts of the tree are toxic and fruit is possibly fatal if eaten. Its milky sap contains phorbol which although is notĀ carcinogen itself, its exposure may causeĀ exposure are tumor promotion and inflammatory response. Contact with the sap is known to produce largeĀ corneal epithelial defects.

Poison Sumac

Settle Outdoor - 6 Plants to Stay Away From While Camping or Hiking - Poison SumacCommon Names: Poison Sumac, Thunderwood

Scientific Name:Ā Toxicodendron vernix, Rhus Vernix

Toxic Parts: All parts of the plant; fruits and leaves mainly

Habitat: Wet Clay Soils, Swamps, Peat Bogs

Height: up to 30 ft

Color: Greenish-Red. Stems along the leaflets are red and the leaves can have a reddish tint to them,

Specific Features:Ā Fruits are creamy white and part of a cluster.

Poison Sumac or thunderwood or also known by its scientific nameĀ Toxicodendron vernix comes from the same family as poison ivy and is concentrated in Southern US States (Florida, Georgia, Alabama) and also found in Eastern US (Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) Parts of the plant (all), contain urushiol, which causes skin irritation in addition to membrane irritation. If the burning plant’s smoke is inhaled, it can possibly cause fatal respiratory difficulty and rash on the inner lining of the lungs. Poison sumac fruit is creamy white and part of a cluster. Typically, they are around 4 to 5 millimeters (0.16 to 0.20 inches) in size.Ā 

Stinging Nettle

Settle Outdoor - 6 Plants to Stay Away From While Camping or Hiking - Stinging NettleCommon Names: Common Nettle, Stinging Nettle, Nettle Leaf

Scientific Name:Ā Urtica Dioica

Toxic Parts: Leafs and Stems

Habitat: Moist Soils, Places where rainfall is high

Height: 3 to 7 ft

Color: Green stem, Bright Yellow roots

Stinging Nettle is native to Asia, Europe, Northern Africa, and Nothern America. This plant has stinging hairs called trichomes on its leaves and stems which contain histamine, producing a stinging sensation upon contact, hence its name and anti-itch creams containing anti-histamine properties provide relief from the stings.

Poison Ivy

Settle Outdoor - 6 Plants to Stay Away From While Camping or Hiking - Poison IvyCommon Names: Poison Ivy, Eastern Poison Ivy

Scientific Name:Ā Toxicodendron radicans

Toxic Part: Sap

Habitat: Mountainous areas, Forest Areas.

Height: up to 4-10 in as a vine / 3ft as a shrub

Color: color ranges from light green ), turning bright red inĀ fall

Specific Features: Leaves areĀ trifoliateĀ with threeĀ almond-shapedĀ leaflets. Grows about an altitude of 4,900 ft.Ā  Grows in lots of three.

Native to AsiaĀ (Japan, Taiwan, China, and some Russian Islands) and East North America (East US, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba), this plant is known for causing an irritating and painful rash and blisters for those who dare to touch it. The rash is caused by one of the components in the plant’s sap and the leaf itself ‘per se’ is not poisonous.

It hasĀ lobed like shape, oak-like leaves that grow in groups of 3 and range from green to bright red depending on the season and is mostly found near or along rivers, meadows, beaches, and forests.

Immediate washing with soap and cold water may help prevent a reaction. Do not use hot waterĀ as it causes one’s pores to open up and admit the oils from the plant.Ā Calamine lotion may help soothe the blisters, which can be obtained from any pharmacy once you reach in the city.

Giant Hogweed

Settle Outdoor - 6 Plants to Stay Away From While Camping or Hiking - Giant HogweedCommon Names: Giant Hogweed, Cartwheel flower, Giant Cow Parsnip, Hogsbane, Wild Parnsip, Wild Rhubarb

Scientific Name:Ā Heracleum mantegazzianum

Toxic Part: Sap

Habitat: Riverbanks

Height: up to 18 ft

Color:Ā Stout, a bright greenĀ stemĀ that is frequently spotted with dark red and hollow red-spottedĀ leafĀ stalks

Specific Features:Ā The sap is toxic due to a toxin in its leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seeds.

Also called Cartwheel Flower, which is a funny name, but in no way is this tree funny and means serious harm by causing some serious blisters. The plant is phototoxic, meaning the sap of giant hogweed causes blisters and scars due to ‘furocoumarin’ derivatives inĀ eaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seeds of the plant. Although it is native Central Asia and Caucasus region, it has spread to many parts of Europe, the US and Canada as well.

Surprisingly enough a month back,Ā  a 17-year-old teenager from Virginia suffered two- and three-degree to his face and arm while he was gardening, raising funds for his college and choppedĀ down a tall, green plant topped with white flowers, which cause the poisonous sap and unwittingly brushing it across his face and left arm. Read more about the story here.


One way to keep away from harm is to wear long full sleeve clothing and long boots that can help prevent any kind of contact with the vegetation.

Contact with any of these plants can cause severe skin inflammation and it is always a good idea to carry a First Aid Kit when heading out on a trail. In case of heading out to marshy, wet meadow areas, where most of these plants grow, it is a very good idea to carry a Skin Cleanser with you. Tecnu Skin Cleanser removes poison ivy and oak irritant (oil) from the skin andĀ ash-causing toxin from gear, tools, clothing and is a must-have for camping, hiking or biking as well.

Being able to identify these dangerous plants you can overcome and avoid some of the un-pleasantries that mother nature has to offer on your next trip or adventure and might be of much knowledge when heading out on a trip with family or with a group of friends.

These are just a few of the most common plants that you will find while on your trip and should keep an eye out for them and we will be covering more mother nature’s surprises including perilous fruits and mention what’s edible and what not in our next part.


We hope youā€™ve enjoyed reading and knowing about the 6 Plants to Stay Away FromĀ While Camping or Hiking and got some great tips on recognizing them during your next outdoor adventure or experience, let us know your thoughts in the comments below, what seems dangerous to you and whether you know of any dangerous plants that we should cover in our part two or you have something exotic growing in your backyard?!

Do check out our other great articles and guides. Be sure to signup for our newsletter to get future updates on great guides, and other outdoor inspirations and gear from Settle Outdoor.

Via Wikipedia
  1. […] safe to avoid getting attacked by bears at night. It is also advisable to ensure that there is no poisonous plants where you want to set camp. You can use a bug spray to be sure that no bugs will crawl in your […]

  2. Tamiflu says

    Camping is a great way to get physical activity. Do things such as walking, hiking, biking, or swimming to stay active during your camping trip. Be sure to bring protective gear, such as helmets, sturdy shoes, and life jackets. Avoid poisonous plants, like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Know your limits, and take steps to avoid injury during activities. Never hike or swim alone. Watch kids closely. Adults should get at least 2 hours a week and kids should get at least 1 hour a day of physical activity.

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