Dangers from Plants

Plants are those lovely green things that grow all over the world.  They decrease carbon levels, help keep oxygen available and provide many essential that make live not only possible, but a lot more comfortable.  Animals have learned caution around native plants, eating some and avoiding others.  Unfortunately many people roam around , using and admiring the plants, but also getting themselves in trouble, not by eating the plants but just by touching them!  Some plants can be dangerous to touch.  What are they and how can you tell?

Some dangerous to touch plants almost everyone has heard about, poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. There are actually websites dedicated to learning what the plants look like in different areas and growing conditions.  Most of them have three leaves (“Leaves of three, leave it be”), but not all.  There are also other plants that are even more dangerous than these found in other countries, but they are not as well known.  The manchineel can eat through your skin and even kill with prolonged contact!  Are there any universal rules for identifying plants that are dangerous to touch in the wild?  Shiny untouched leaves!  

Why shiny or untouched?  Because the pl;ant is usually putting out a coating that serves to purposes, water retention and dehydration.  The shine is caused by and oil or latex (it varies based upon the plant), in many plants it is Ursh Oil.  The oil seals the leaf and prevents water loss, it is also toxic to most insects and animals.  This toxicity is why the leaves are untouched!  A large shiny bush with no leaves eaten is a sign that it may be dangerous, and dangerous to touch.  But furry plants can also be dangerous.  Why?

Plants do not need fur to keep warm.  That cacti with silky-like hair all over it isn’t wrapping up to stay cozy through a chilly night, it is protecting itself!  Touch it and those “hairs” break off and impale themselves in your skin.  They may not kill, but can cause infections and are painful.  Nettles also have fur, and those are minute hollow tubes that also have toxins!  Of course the hairs may just be for blocking up the breathing spicules on insects and harmless to you, but many furry plants can be dangerous.

Plants, essential and beautiful, but some can be very dangerous to touch!