10 Dangerous Plants for Humans to Avoid When Hiking

Nature can be a beautiful, calming, and therapeutic thing. Hiking through a forest, running through a field, or even just walking along a beach can be an enjoyable way to spend a day. However, while out on a hike, it’s important to be aware of the plants and animals that inhabit the area. In North America, there are some dangerous plants for humans that can cause severe reactions or can even be deadly if touched or ingested.

 Knowing what to look for and how to avoid these plants can help keep you safe while exploring the outdoors. Here is a list of the 10 most dangerous plants that you should be aware of and stay away from while hiking in North America.

What is plant-based danger and why is it important?

Plants can be dangerous in many ways. Some plants have thorns, needles, or spines that can pierce the skin and cause irritation. Some have sticky or resinous sap that can cause irritation or even create a strong bond that will trap you if you come in contact with it. Some plants can cause skin infections or rashes if you come in contact with them. Others have toxic or poisonous parts, such as seeds, leaves, flowers, or roots, which can cause severe allergic reactions, mouth or throat swelling, difficulty breathing, dizziness, vomiting, or even death.

 The most important thing to remember is that some plants will cause harm even after you’ve picked them. You can become exposed to dangerous plants even after you’ve removed them from their roots. Seeds, sap, and spores can remain on your clothing, shoes, or even your hands and can cause harm even after you’ve left the scene.

An Overview of 10 dangerous Plants for Humans in North American

1) Jimsonweed

Jimsonweed 1

Jimsonweed is a plant belonging to the nightshade family. This plant can often be found in disturbed soil and along roadsides. Its flowers from July to September, and the leaves are often used in herbal tea. While the tea is not dangerous, the leaves contain a toxic substance called tropane alkaloids. These substances can cause issues with breathing, heart rate, and cause hallucinations. If ingested, you should seek medical attention immediately. To avoid coming into contact with this plant, stay off the side of the trail and avoid stepping in areas where the soil is disturbed.

2) Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle 1

While stinging nettles are certainly dangerous to touch, they are also one of the most beneficial plants in nature. These plants can be found in many areas across North America and are often used in herbal supplements. The hairs on the underside of the leaves are what causes the itch. If you come into contact with this plant, it’s best to avoid rubbing the area and remove the nettles with water rather than your hands. If you come into contact with this plant, don’t worry too much. The stinging sensation will be gone in a few hours.

3) Wild Parsnip

Wild Parsnip

Also known as the cow parsnip, this plant can be found in many areas across North America. The leaves and stems of this plant are extremely poisonous, causing serious burns and blisters if touched. If you come into contact with this plant, you should wash the area right away and avoid touching the area again. If you touch this plant, you may experience skin irritation and small blisters. If large areas of the skin are affected, you may experience pain, redness, and swelling. Make sure you have a first aid kit nearby.


4) Thimbleweed

Commonly found across Canada, the thimbleweed can be identified by its pink, white, or purple flowers. These flowers are very delicate and will often break if brushed against them. This plant’s sap is toxic and has been known to cause skin irritation and swelling. If you come into contact with this plant, you should wash your hands and avoid touching the area again.

5) Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy 2

Poison ivy is a plant to avoid while hiking, as it can cause nasty rashes and intense itching. That being said, it’s an incredibly fascinating plant and can be a great way to learn about natural landscapes and the environment. The plant itself is instantly recognizable, with its glossy three-leaf pattern and reddish stems. In the summer months, it produces small white or yellow flowers, followed by white or tan berries in the fall. It’s also quite hardy and can be found in all types of environments, from hardwood forests to sunny yards.

 If you’re unfortunate enough to come into contact with it, the best thing to do is to wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to wear protective clothing and shoes when hiking in areas where poison ivy is known to grow. By following these simple steps, you can enjoy the beauty of nature without worrying about getting a nasty rash!

6) Poison Oak

Poison Oak

Have you ever heard the saying “Leaves of three, let it be”? That’s because poison oak is a plant that you want to avoid while out hiking. Poison oak leaves are usually found in clusters of three and are typically dull green in color. It usually grows as a low shrub or vine, and its leaves can be smooth or fuzzy. It is important to be able to recognize poison oak so you can avoid it, as contact with it can cause an itchy, rash reaction.

 If you do come into contact with poison oak, wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible. Applying a cold compress may also help reduce the itching. So, the next time you’re out enjoying the great outdoors, be sure to keep an eye out for the leaves of three and remember the saying “Leaves of three, let it be”!

7) Poison Sumac 

Poison Sumac 1

Poison sumac is a plant you need to be aware of while hiking in the woods or other natural areas. It can cause a severe rash on the skin if it comes into contact with it. The plant looks like a shrub and can reach heights of up to 15 feet tall. It usually grows in wetlands, swamps, and other marshy areas. The leaves are green and have smooth edges, but the top of each leaf is covered in a waxy substance.

 The stems are hairy and the bark is gray and brown. It’s important to avoid coming into contact with this plant as it can cause a painful and itchy rash. If you do come into contact with poison sumac, it’s advised to wash the area with soap and water immediately and see a doctor if the rash persists. Knowing how to identify poison sumac is critical for avoiding it while hiking in the woods and other natural areas.

Water Hemlock

8) Water Hemlock

Water hemlock is a plant that grows in wet areas such as swamps or alongside streams and ponds. The roots and stems of this plant contain a poison that, if ingested, can cause seizures or even death. The best way to avoid coming in contact with this plant is to avoid walking in areas where it grows.

9) Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed 1

Giant hogweed is a plant you should definitely be on the lookout for while hiking. This plant can grow up to 15 feet tall and has a bright, white sap that can cause a skin rash when exposed to sunlight. The rash can be painful, itchy, and even blistering in some cases. If you come across giant hogweed, it’s best to avoid it and be sure to wear protective clothing, such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts, to cover any exposed skin.

It’s also important to wash any affected skin with soap and cold water as soon as possible. Giant hogweed is an invasive species and is becoming increasingly common in many parts of the world. If you come across it, it’s best to stay away, but if you can’t, be sure to take the necessary precautions.

10) Wild lettuce

Wild lettuce

Hiking in the woods can be a great way to get away from it all, but you must be aware of certain plants that could be hazardous to your health. One such plant is wild lettuce. Wild lettuce is a tall, leafy green plant with white flowers and a milky sap. It is commonly found growing in wooded areas and is easily identified by its distinctive white sap.

The plant is mildly poisonous and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested. It can also cause skin irritation if touched, so it is best to avoid it altogether. While it may not seem like a big danger, it is important to be aware of it while hiking in the woods. So, if you come across a tall, leafy green plant with white flowers and milky sap, steer clear and keep on hiking!

How to avoid dangerous plants while hiking

While hiking and exploring new areas, it’s important to keep a watchful eye out for these dangerous plants. While some of these plants look similar, others are easily identified by their unique characteristics, such as the water hemlock that grows in wet areas near ponds or rivers. Other plants can easily be avoided by staying on the trails and being aware of your surroundings.

It may be helpful to bring a guidebook with you on your hikes to identify any dangerous plants in the area. If you come into contact with a dangerous plant, wash the area with soap and water. If the area becomes itchy or irritated, see a doctor as soon as possible. If possible, bring the plant with you so they can identify the plant and its harmful parts.

Treatment for contact with dangerous plants

If you come into direct contact with any of these dangerous plants, it’s important to wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible to remove the oil. If you have any type of allergic reaction, seek medical attention as soon as possible. The best thing to do if you think you may have been exposed is to remove all clothing and clean yourself thoroughly. If you believe you have ingested any of these plants, seek medical attention immediately. The best thing to do is to vomit, either by inducing vomiting or taking an emetic.

Additional Resources

If you are looking for more tutorials, walkthroughs and troubleshooting about camping and enjoying the outdoors, here are some additional posts to check out:


Many plants can be dangerous to the human body. Some plants can cause serious reactions, even if you don’t directly touch them. Others can kill you if ingested or if their sap comes into contact with your skin. If you are going hiking in North America, it’s important to know which plants in the area are dangerous.

Stay out of areas with known dangerous plants and watch for plants that look similar to these dangerous plants. By following these tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. Thanks for reading, If you think I forgot something or if you simply want to share a story or some advice, feel free to leave your comment below. Be Safe and Have Fun!

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