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 top 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:
Common 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.
Common names: Manchineel, manchioneel, mancinella, beach apple
Scientific name: Hippomane mancinella
Toxic Parts: Sap, fruit
Habitat: Coastal beaches, Brackish swamps, Mangroves
Height: up to 49 ft
Color: Reddish-Greyish bark, small greenish-yellow flowers, and shiny green leaves
Specific Features: Leaves are simple, alternate, very finely serrated or toothed, and 5–10 cm (2–4 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 not carcinogen itself, its exposure may cause exposure are tumor promotion and inflammatory response. Contact with the sap is known to produce large corneal epithelial defects.
Common Names: Poison Sumac, Thunderwood
Scientific Name: 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: Fruits are creamy white and part of a cluster.
Poison Sumac or thunderwood or also known by its scientific name 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.
Common Names: Common Nettle, Stinging Nettle, Nettle Leaf
Scientific Name: 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.
Common Names: Poison Ivy, Eastern Poison Ivy
Scientific Name: 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 in fall
Specific Features: Leaves are trifoliate with three almond-shaped leaflets. Grows about an altitude of 4,900 ft. Grows in lots of three.
Native to Asia (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 has 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 water as it causes one’s pores to open up and admit the oils from the plant. Calamine lotion may help soothe the blisters, which can be obtained from any pharmacy once you reach in the city.
Common Names: Giant Hogweed, Cartwheel flower, Giant Cow Parsnip, Hogsbane, Wild Parnsip, Wild Rhubarb
Scientific Name: Heracleum mantegazzianum
Toxic Part: Sap
Height: up to 18 ft
Color: Stout, a bright green stem that is frequently spotted with dark red and hollow red-spotted leaf stalks
Specific Features: 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 in 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, 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 chopped 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 and 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 you’ve enjoyed reading and knowing about the 6 Plants to Stay Away From 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?!