Southern Discomfort: A Complete Guide to the Mid-South’s Most Poisonous Plants

most poisonous plants

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2010 two people in the US died from ingesting poisonous plants.

While death from poisonous plants is relatively low, exposures to the most toxic plants happen much more frequently.

If you’re going to be out camping, gardening, fishing, or hunting, it’s important to be able to recognize the most poisonous plants.

Let’s take a look at the mid-South’s most toxic plants.

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac

The most common allergic reaction in the United States is caused by three plants that all contain the same oil called urushiol.

These plants impact nearly 50 million people a year. Exposure to poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak can cause redness, swelling, blisters, and severe itchiness.

With 85% of people allergic to urushiol, and 10-15% of people highly allergic, your best line of defense against these poisonous plants is avoiding them.

If you do come into contact with any of these three poisonous plants, wash the affected area with soap and water immediately. Urushiol is quickly absorbed by the skin and is not possible to remove with water once it has penetrated the skin.

Poison ivy and oak grow as either poisonous vines or shrubs, while poison sumac grows as a poisonous tree or shrub.

Castor Bean

Though not native to North America, the Castor Bean is widely used in the mid-South as an ornamental plant.

Cator oil is extracted from the seeds inside the fruit, but ingesting the raw seeds can be incredibly toxic. Considered by some to be the world’s most poisonous common plant, you should never ingest the fruits or seeds of the castor bean.

Rich in ricin, symptoms of ingestion would include diarrhea, nausea, hypotension, tachycardia, and seizures.

Water Hemlock

Water hemlock might be the most poisonous plant in North America.

Containing high levels of the toxin cicutoxin in all parts of the plant at all stages of growth, you should never under any circumstances ingest water hemlock.

This principle toxin acts upon your central nervous system as a stimulant and results in seizures. The symptoms can come on as quickly as fifteen minutes after ingestion.

A part of the plant family Apiaceae, water hemlock can easily be confused with other related types of plants, some of which are edible and some of which are also poisonous.

Poison Hemlock

Poison hemlock is native to North Africa and Europe, but it’s become naturalized all over the world including here in the mid-South.

Famous for being the plant that killed Socrates in ancient Greece, ingesting poison hemlock should be avoided at all costs.

Since the leaves of this plant look similar to those of parsley or carrots, it’s not unheard of for both people and livestock to eat poison hemlock. These weeds are poisonous and shouldn’t be ingested by either humans and animals.

The Most Poisonous Plants: Knowledge is Power!

Learning to identify the most poisonous plants is an important step in avoiding their ill-effects. It’s particularly important to never ingest plants that you aren’t 100% positive of their identification. This precaution could save your life!

If you do ever have a reaction with a local poisonous plant, our walk-in urgent care is open seven days a week from 8 am to 7 pm.

If you have any questions about our urgent care services, feel free to contact us today!