Most people realize that when planning a hiking trip or other outdoor activity, they should be very careful to avoid any types of poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. But you should also realize the three most common types of poisonous plants could be growing right in your own backyard without you knowing it, which could hamper any gardening or other outdoor activities you might enjoy. Below I will explain how to identify the three most common types of poisonous plants.
Poison ivy has three leaflets on each stalk. The leaflets are pointed and have saw-tooth like edges, although sometimes they can be smooth. Poison ivy usually grows in a vine-like form, and will climb up any surrounding objects as normal ivy does. In autumn, the green leaves of poison ivy turn a bright shade of red.
Poison oak also has three leaflets on each stalk, except its leaves are shiny. The shape of the leaves also differ from ivy in that they are lobed and look very similar to oak tree leaves. Poison oak grows as a shrub instead of a vine and is usually found in the western part of the United States, such as California and extends all the way up to Canada. Around autumn, poison oak turns from green to red.
Poison sumac is the plant most different from the other two poisonous types listed above. It can have anywhere from 6 to 14 leaflets on its long stalks and also has small berries that are usually gray or white in appearance. Poison sumac can grow as either a small tree or a shrub and usually prefers wet soil. It is most commonly found in swampy regions of the southeastern United States, or in wooded areas of the northernmost states. Usually sumac is a bit harder to identify than ivy or oak.
Now that you know how to identify each of the three most common types of poisonous plants, you may want to scout around your backyard to make sure none are growing there. If you find any, the best way to remove them is to wear protective clothing and heavy gloves (making sure they have no holes), then simply pull the plant up, roots and all. If you don’t want to actually touch the plant, you can put black plastic bags over them and gradually they will smother and die. Various herbicides such as Roundup and Brush-B-Gone are also effective for killing poisonous plants. Be sure to read the labels and follow the directions carefully. Also wash your hands thoroughly after being around any of the plants, and also wash any clothing that may have come in contact.
The main toxin in the poisonous plants listed above is called Urushiol, which causes the skin of susceptible people to break out in a rash. Because around 80% of the U.S. population are susceptible to outbreaks from poison ivy, oak, and sumac, you should definitely be on the lookout for these plants whenever you spend any time out of doors.
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