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Backpacker Magazine – June 2008

Danger Signs: Painful Plants

Sure, you know the mantra "leaves of three, let it be." But that warning alone doesn't help you detect those irritating plants that change colors, grow as vines, or mimic harmless species. Heed these tips to keep your summer itch-free.

by: BACKPACKER Editors

(Scott Mansfield)
Photo by Poison Plants
(Scott Mansfield)

Stinging nettles Each serrated dark green leaf and stem (pictured) harbors thousands of hollow spines ready to deliver a painful injection of histamine and formic acid. Distinguish nettles from lookalike mint by crushing the leaves with your boot and sniffing the air. Nettles grow in moist, shady areas in every state except Hawaii.

Poison oak Rounded, urushiol-laced leaves change color from bright green in spring to yellow-orange in summer to pinkish red by fall. Along the West Coast, shrubs grow in shady spots, while vines climb redwoods and Douglas firs. In the East, knee-high bushes lurk from Texas to New Jersey in dry, open woodlands and pine forests with sandy soil.

Poison ivy The leaves are bad, but the vine is just as toxic. The vine version carpets rock ledges and tree trunks with dense clusters of reddish-brown rootlets. All parts of shrub and vine contain urushiol, which spawns blistering rashes in 85 percent of people. Leaves that are dark green in summer turn bright red by the fall.

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May 22, 2014

Yes, the three plants mentioned in this article are a nuisance and should be avoided. However, two plants to recognize and avoid that can produce much more severe reactions are Giant Hogweed and Cow Parsnip.

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Mar 22, 2011

As a kid romping thru the woods with my telescope, I contracted poison oak all over my body and my eye lids. I could not see for several days because my eyes swelled shut. As an adult I got poison oak on my face and when my eyes starte swelling shut I went to the emergency room and they gave me an antihistemine shot and it worked pretty well at reducing almost cured the eye swelling.

Your Old English Teacher
Mar 24, 2009

My goodness but we're a bunch of ebonics/text/phonetic spellers, aren't we? I'm not sure that if most of us saw a sign with the plant's picture, common and botanical name, compete description for every time of year, any smells associated with it, and all other vital features listed -right there in the woods- that we'd be able to avoid it. Buy some soap! Read a book!

Mar 01, 2009

You can not get poison ivy on your palms but the oil still remains. Be sure to wash hands when going to the bathroom. I once had it ALL OVER my body. Thank God for Gold Bond it actually made it an enjoyable experience

Nov 23, 2008

Poison oak will affect all people - eventually. Everyone has a different threshold, different number of exposures without a rash, but once you have had a rash you will always rash. I have not had a rash yet and always wear long pants, use soap that will break down the oils to wash after a hike in poison oak territory, and try to avoid walking through it if possible.

Nov 04, 2008

so you are sidethe poison canget in your eye.

Nov 04, 2008

i do not no want is going on. 11/4/08

tynisha mcneill
Nov 04, 2008

do these plant kill us i will love to hear about it.

Nov 04, 2008

and the plant posion.

eric b
Sep 11, 2008

What about sumac??

Aug 28, 2008

I agree with "Anonymous" (Aug 05)... Wild Parsnip is another realy painful plant. Its blooms look like Queen Ann's Lace, but the flowers are yellow (instead of white), and turn brown when seeds develop.
I also agree with another "Anonymous" (Aug 19)... why no pictures?

Aug 21, 2008

what percentage of people will poison oak effect?

Aug 19, 2008

Why no pictures?

Aug 18, 2008

FYI: Smoke from burning poisin ivy will also give yu a rash IN YOUR LUNGS OR IN YOU EYES.

Aug 05, 2008

Watch out for Wild Parsnip. It causes a skin burn similar to a real burn. It will blister and even leave a scar. Sunlight increases the effect. Wash off the area and stay out of the sun.

Aug 01, 2008

FYI:Smoke from burning poison ivy vine will cause just as bad a rash as touching the leaves or vines.


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