poisonous mushrooms

Potentially poisonous wild plants in North Carolina

There are three general ways that a plant can poison us:

  • if we eat it
  • if it comes in contact with our skin
  • if we inhale it
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Just how badly a poisonous plant may effect us can depend on:

  • the individual. We can all respond differently... and some of us may have no response at all! Also, age, weight and overall health are factors.
  • the plant species and even the individual plant, it's condition and the time of year.
  • the amount of the plant's poison that we got exposed to
  • our history with the plant. For example, the more often we come in contact with the urushiol oil in poison ivy, oak or sumac, the more allergic many of us will become.

Common myths about poisonous wild plants include:

  • If wildlife is eating it, it's probably safe for human consumption.
  • Cooking will make anything less poisonous.
  • Avoid anything that is the color red.
  • Poisonous just look poisonous. In reality, some poisonous and nonpoisonous plants look similar. (For instance, compare poison hemlock to garden carrot leaves.)

The following list includes some of the poisonous plants you may find when hiking or camping in Western North Carolina. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive list of all known toxic plants or all the possible symptoms that can be caused by these plants.

WILD PLANTS TOXIC PART SYMPTOMS
Baneberry all, especially berries vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, death rare
Bittersweet vine berries, leaves vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions
Buckeye, Horse Chestnut seeds vomiting, weakness, possible death
Buttercup all vomiting
Cardinal flower, Indian tobacco all vomiting, weakness, convulsions, possible death
Chinaberry tree fruit, leaves vomiting, difficulty breathing, death possible
Dock leaves vomiting
Elderberry leaves, stems, unripe or uncooked berries vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions
False Hellebore all vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations, possible death
Honeysuckle berries only vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory failure, death possible
Jack-in-the-pulpit berries, leaves mouth irritation, nausea
Jimson weed all, especially seeds hallucinations, rapid pulse, convulsions, possible death
Larkspur seeds, young plants nausea, weakness, possible death
Mayapple unripe fruit vomiting, diarrhea
Milkweed milky sap skin irritation
Monkshood, Wolfbane all vomiting, diarrhea, paralysis, possible death
Mulberry milky sap skin irritation, nausea
Mushrooms (learn more) all parts upset stomach, hallucinations, possible death. Symptoms may take a day or more to appear.
Nightshades, horsenettle all vomiting, weakness, possible death
Poison hemlock
(herbaceous weed, not the tree)
all vomiting, diarrhea, paralysis, weak pulse, possible death
Poison ivy all skin irritation, eating berries can cause death
Poison sumac all skin irritation, eating berries can cause death
Pokeweed all vomiting, diarrhea
Sneezeweed all trembling, weakness, vomiting, difficulty breathing
Strawberry bush, Hearts-a-bustin' fruit, leaves vomiting, diarrhea
Stinging nettle leaves, stems skin irritation
Virginia creeper berries vomiting, diarrhea, kidney damage, possible death
Water hemlock, Spotted cowbane
(herbaceous weed, not the tree)
all vomiting, diarrhea, delirium, paralysis, death

Sources: Potentially Poisonous Plants in the Home and Landscape, Linda G. Blue, Extension Agent, Agriculture - Urban Horticulture, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Buncombe County Center

ALSO SEE: Poisonous house and garden plants | Poisonous flowers, trees and landscaping plants

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