hiking, poisonous plants, poison ivy, hiking tips

Hiker’s Guide to Poisonous Plants

Hitting the trail can be the greatest pleasure for hikers, but they have to know about the poisonous plants that they might come across during his trip. Even the slightest contact with any of these plants can result in rashes, itchiness, blisters and even acute central nervous system disorders. In worst cases, even death cannot be ruled out. While protective apparels can reduce risks of skin contact, identifying the plants is a necessity.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy has three oval and glossy leaflets – one in the middle and two at the sides. The color of the leaves changes with changes in season. Although the leaf is not toxic, rashes can arise from the sap. There can be bruised or broken skin, itchiness, redness, inflammation, and blisters that break and ooze pus and other issues anywhere between 6 and 14 days after exposure. The problems can be remedied with cool baths, over-the-counter skin medicines, antibiotic ointment etc.

Poison Sumac

Poison Sumac is larger than poison ivy, and is about 5 – 20 feet in size. There are 9 – 13 leaflets without teeth which are connected by a stem. These arise during the summer and spring seasons, and comprise of green leaves along with white fruit and green flowers. Contact with the plant can result in redness, itching, swelling and other issues similar to that of poison ivy exposure. Topical and oral steroids and antihistamines can alleviate such issues.

Poison Oak

Poison oak, similar to poison ivy, consists of shiny, 3-parted leaves which are reddish black, yellow, orange, red or green in color – based on the season. The gray or brown stems of the plant can range between 1 and 6 feet in height. These are common in summer and spring seasons. Exposure to this plant can lead to itchy, burning skin and rashes. Use of antihistamine, hydrocortisone cream or oatmeal bath is recommended in order to control and cure the symptoms arising due to exposure.


Although used for Christmas decoration, the plant is not as harmless as it may seem. Holly leaves are green, pointed and leathery, and generally range between 2 and 4 inches in length. The leaves are non-poisonous, but the berries can be harmful if ingested in large numbers. Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and even central nervous system depression are common problems, and might need emergency treatment.


Hemlock, with purple-blotched stem and fern-like leaves, has a musty odor. Ingestion of Holly berries can produce effects such as nausea, muscle pain, drowsiness, rapid heart rate along with other serious issues that can become deadly. Emergency treatment is necessary.

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