The number one rule for plant identification is “safety first.” Prior to practicing skills of plant identification through personal investigation of plants in your region, you must learn to quickly and confidently identify poisonous plants specific to your area. The plants to study first are the ones which cause skin reactions from contact with the plant.
A recommended field guide for poisonous plants is Venomous Animals & Poisonous Plants — a book in the Peterson Field Guides series.
By studying the information referenced at Identify that Plant, you may learn about and really come to “know” plants in your area which are hazardous or poisonous. A plant may be deemed poisonous to humans (animals are a different story!) because the plant causes a skin reaction and/or the plant is dangerous through bringing some portion of it into your body via eating, or breathing the burning plant’s smoke.
Listed below are two sets of links to websites with information about poisonous plants. The first set of links connects you with regionally listed plants. The second set focuses on specific hazardous plants which cause skin reactions.
Since I expect to continually update these lists, please do send me links to websites which you find useful on the topic of poisonous plants. You may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regional lists and descriptions of poisonous plants
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina — Information provided includes excellent photos as well as a description of the plant, the poisonous part(s), symptoms of poisoning, and where the plant can be found.
Poisonous Plants — Provides information about plants in the Pennsylvania region. (Note: After selecting a plant, a new browser window opens with photos of the plant. Click on the plant page’s link titled “Poisonous Plants of Pennsylvania” to get the detailed information about the plant. If you then select another plant from the home page, it will override the previous plant’s page in the newly opened browser window. You will have to click back and forth between browser windows.)
Common Poisonous Plants — This list of plants, provided by Texas AgriLife Extension Service, includes the poisonous plant part and symptoms of poisoning.
Guide to Poisonous Plants — Provided by Colorado State University, the website features plants in the Colorado region.
Poisonous Plants of the Southern United States — Although the focus is on the harm to livestock, this reference provides good photos and descriptions of a long list of plants.
Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System — Along with information and references, each plant listed links to a Google search for photos of the plant (resulting in hundreds and thousands of images to study).
The Poison Plant Patch — Features plants in Nova Scotia.
Poisonous Plants in New Zealand — Although no photos are provided, the list does outline some basic information about each plant.
Australian Native Poisonous Plants — This article discusses poisonous plants native to Australia.
Specific hazardous plants
The U.S. Army Public Health Command provides four well-written and photograph-enriched pieces of information about poison ivy, poison oak (Atlantic and Pacific), and poison sumac. The fact sheets are downloadable pdf files which can be printed and carried on field trips.
Another comprehensive site about these three plants is the Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center.
Sites about poison ivy . . .
Sites about poison oak . . .
- From Wayne’s Word
- Atlantic poison oak from USDA plants database
- Pacific poison oak from USDA plants database
Sites about poison sumac . . .
Sites about stinging nettle . . .