Plants are enjoyable to look at but some can make you miserable. When you’re out enjoying Mother Nature, an abundance of leaves, trees, and vegetation can harm pets and people. Here are four wild plants to avoid when camping in North America’s wilderness.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
This is one plant that heals and hurts. Found in any damp shady area in the U.S., this low-lying perennial shrub grows up to four feet tall during summer.
Beautiful white flowers bloom on it but don’t touch the plant. Stinging nettle sprouts bright green leaves crammed with fine hairs that cause painful stings and even blisters. Ironically if you boil the plant it changes into an edible leafy green packed with vital nutrients.
Stinging nettle is often utilized as a medicinal plant because it’s known for alleviating symptoms for everything from urinary tract infections to joint pain. If you try it, pick the smallest leaves while wearing sturdy gloves.
Anything with “Poison” in the name
From poison oak to poisonwood and everything in-between, there’s a reason why the scientific names of these plants all have the word “toxic” in them. Each one can make your camping trip miserable if you make contact with their secretions. Over 80 percent of the world’s population is allergic to this natural toxin and one of the worst in North America is poisonwood.
Poisonwood (Metopium toxiferum) is a large toxic tree and shrub found in the wilds of Florida.
This 35-foot tall evergreen shade tree or shrub is in the same family as the Manchineel tree, one of the most deadly trees in the world. You’ll know a poisonwood tree when you see glossy green leaves about 6-10 inches long, outlined in yellow.
Avoid walking under it at all costs, especially after a rain when the tree’s peeling bark spurts a sticky, drippy substance called urushiol resin. If the dark goo drips onto your skin you will break out into a horrible rash that can only be quelled with medical-grade anti-itch creams.
Other plants to avoid when camping include the ever-present poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).
This is a woody trailing vine that doesn’t actually climb but grows on the ground, trees, and fences. You’ll find it almost everywhere in North America.
Finally, if you venture to the Southeast or on the West Coast, stay vigilant against poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum in the Western U.S and Toxicodendron pubescen in the Eastern U.S).
This is another plant that emits urushiol resin. Poison oak causes flaming hot, rashy blisters, and skin inflammation. It can appear up to 24 hours after you have touched it. Animals are immune to plants that secrete urushiol but always keep Fido close when hiking in the woods.
Admire these plants from afar
Many of us don’t possess the botanical knowledge to distinguish safe plants from the most toxic wild plants. To keep you and your pets out of harm’s way in the wilderness, it’s best just to play it safe.
Only look and admire all the plants you see in the woods. Prevent body parts from making contact and you’ll get home without harm.
Read more about how to identify poison ivy
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.