4 Poisonous Plants to Watch Out For In the Smokies

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains is a glorious outdoor experience. Beauty resides everywhere you look and with a plethora of species, it is a plant enthusiast’s heaven. However, some plants although beautiful, can also be dangerous. Poison Ivy, Nettles, Hemlock and Jimson Weed: these are some of the most common poisonous plants that you can come in contact with in the Smokies.  Read on to learn how to recognize them and what to do if you have come in contact with them.

Toxicodendron Radicans or Poison Ivy…

Is perhaps the most common poisonous plant in North America. Poison Ivy has adapted into three different forms, the trailing vine located at ones feet, the shrub ranging to 4 feet in height and the climbing vine that depends on a tree to thrive.  Hard to recognize by it’s common three leafed structure, poison ivy produces something called the urushiol liquid. The liquid is found in the sap and upon contact causes skin irritation such as itching, redness and inflammation. Though you should try to avoid the plant altogether, if you experience direct contact, an immediate wash with antibacterial soap and hot water will limit your chances of the rash.

Urtica Dioica…

Is commonly referred to as Nettles. It is widely found in its native regions including Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. Yet, its poisonous qualities are quite unique. Nettles has an innocently soft and hairy exterior, but don’t be fooled. Upon contact, these hairs will leave you quite uncomfortable. The compounds – formic acid, serotonin and histamine found in the hairs will result in a stinging sensation in whichever area of the body that has been touched. The pain will not last more than a couple of hours but make no mistake, it won’t be pleasant.

Hemlock…

Is a plant unlike Nettles and Poison Ivy. Contact to the skin poses no threat. Yet, ingestion can result in death. Deceiving in its flower-like appearance, the weed is extremely dangerous. Its poisonous compound is referred to as coniine. The substance can be found in the leaves, but even more potent in the seeds. Depending on the amount, Hemlock can have a severe effect on the central nervous system and can in extreme cases kill you. The Irish refer to the plant as “Devils Porridge”. If you or a loved one is experiencing shortness of breath after ingesting any plant, rush to the hospital immediately.

Jimson Weed…

Is an herb that can potentially reach 5 feet in height. The plant’s defining features include white and violet flowers, pointed leaves and a walnut sized, spiked seed capsule. The Jimson weed is poisonous in its entirety but like Hemlock, only when ingested. Also, the Jimson weed is a hallucinogen. Its active ingredients include Tropane alkaloids Atropine, Hyoscyamine and scopolamine. Too much of these compounds will result in an overdose and possibly death. If you think you or a friend have ingested Jimson weed a trip to the hospital is the safest option.

Now, with a keen awareness, you can hike the endless trails of the Smokies knowing exactly what to steer clear of. Watch your step around the Poison Ivy and Nettles and be sure not to eat the Hemlock and the Jimson Weed. If you follow this easy advice you will be that much closer to safe and rich hiking experience. Be careful and have fun!

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