As we spend more time outside during the summer months, it is a good time to remind everyone about some plants that to avoid.  Here is a list of plants to keep an eye out for and avoid.

Poison Ivy:

Similar to poison oak and poison sumac, poison ivy has a sap that can cause an allergic reaction.  These reactions can cause red, swollen, and itchy skin.  Poison ivy has three “leaflets” and can grow as a vine as well as a shrub.

Poison Oak:

Poison Oak looks a lot like poison ivy but the leaves look similar to an oak tree. The sun-facing side of the leaves has tiny hairs on it and is a darker shade of green than the ground-facing side.  If you get the sap on your skin, it could take hours or days to see a reaction and the rash may turn bumpy and form blisters that ooze.

Poison Sumac:

This woody shrub grows in wet swampy areas.  Each stem has 7 – 13 leaves and clusters of green berries that droop.

Giant Hogweed:

Giant Hogweed lives in rich, wet soil near ditches, streams, and farms.  It has umbrella-shaped groups of small white flowers.  Its leaves have deep creases, and its stem has white hairs and purple splotches.  It can grow as tall as 15 feet. The sap can make your skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light, which can result in blisters, burns, or scarring.  It can damage your vision if the sap gets near your eyes.

Stinging Nettle:

The little hairs on the stems of stinging nettle can inject your skin with chemicals that feels like a sting. This sting can cause itchiness and sometimes an allergic skin reaction that can be very painful.  Stinging nettle grow in patches that can be 4-6 feet tall.

Wild parsnip:

This plant can grow to 5 feet tall.  The yellow flowers grow in an umbrella pattern and the leaves are course, with a saw-tooth edge. The stems are grooved and hairy. When the sap touches your skin, sunlight can cause a rash within a day or two.

Poison Hemlock:

This plant looks like wild carrot or a big parsley plant because of the umbrella-like bunches of tiny white flowers.  If you see purple blotches on the stem and if it is tall, (3-7 feet) there is a good chance it is poison hemlock.  It is poisonous to human and livestock if consumed and you can get sick if your skin absorbs the sap.


A popular flower that is found in many gardens, it is also found in the wild.  It has bell shaped flowers that are often bright purple but also can be white, yellow, or pink. It produces fruit with lots of seeds, which are poisonous.  All parts of the planet are poisonous and can slow or disrupt your heart.

Bitter Nightshade:

This plant can grow to 6 feet and produces purple flowers in groups of three or more blooms. It produces red, juicy, glossy, poisonous berries.  The poison can give you a headache and cause drowsiness, stomachache, vomiting, trembling, lowered temperature, dilated pupils, and diarrhea.  If you think you ate one, get to the doctor right away.


Mistletoe lives off other trees and plants.  Its stems are thick and easy to break.  The leaves are thick and stay green all year round.  The small white berries have one seed and contains a sticky poisonous pulp. Keep this Christmas plant away from pets and kids.  Eating the berries can cause diarrhea and slow or stop your heart.


Oleander is a tall shrub with long leathery leaves and bright clusters of flowers of red, pink, or white.  All parts of the plant are very poisonous.  One leaf is enough to kill an adult.

Azalea and Rhododendron:

The leaves, nectar, and flowers are poisonous although you would need to consume a lot.  It can irritate the mouth and make you nauseated.  Kids sometime mistake it for honeysuckle and eat the nectar,

If you suspect that someone has been poisoned you need to act fast.  If someone has a seizure, trouble breathing, or loses consciousness call 911 immediately.  If your mouth or throat feels burned, try drinking a little bit of milk or water.  Get away from any toxic fumes and into fresh air.  If the poison got on your skin, rinse it quickly.  If it got into your eye, rinse it with saline drops for 15 – 20 minutes and call the poison control as soon as possible.