Leaves of three, let it be - learn about toxic plants in Ontario

·3 min read

Conservation Authorities in Ontario are reminding people to be aware of toxic plants now that spring is here and green leaves are sprouting all over the province in wooded areas.

With hiking becoming one of the most popular pastimes and local trails filled with people enjoying their nature walks, you should be aware of the danger that lurks if you decide to leave the marked trails and venture into the woods.

There are several toxic plants that grow in Ontario and can cause problems by touching them or getting oils on your clothes. While none of them will leave you with a life threatening condition, you could be in for a really uncomfortable time if you manage to get some of the plant's oils on your skin.

The most well known plant in the province is poison ivy.

Poison ivy is identified by its three pointy leaves. The plant produces a sap that can cause an allergic reaction in most people. All parts of the plant contain a poisonous resin called urshiol.

The resin can cause a very uncomfortable rash on your skin. It can also be spread from clothing that has been exposed to to your skin.

The extent of a reaction depends on the person's sensitivity and the amount of sap that has come in contact with skin.

Inflamed areas can develop blisters which can be very irritating.

If you need to remove poison ivy from a property, do not burn it. The smoke from the fire will also be toxic and can damage lungs if someone inhales it.

Poison oak is another plant that can be identified by its three leaves.

Similar to poison ivy, poison oak contains the same type of resin that causes redness, burns, and blisters.

Poison sumac is more like a tree or bush, but produces the same results as poison ivy when you come in contact with it.

If you come in contact with any of these three plants you should wash the area with soap and cold water to remove as much of the resin as you can. There are some topical creams that may be applied to reduce blisters and relive itchiness.

Wild parsnip is an invasive plant native to Europe and Asia. It commonly grows in large patched or as scattered plants around roadsides or public recreation areas.

It can be identified by its bright yellow flowers.

If you come in contact with the sap, the affected area will redden between 24 and 48 hours after contact. In most cases this will be followed by blisters that can become painful for several days.

In many cases the blisters will lead to brownish pigmentation that can last for years.

Giant Hogweed is a flowering type plant found in Ontario and New York state.

This is another invasive species.

Coming in contact with Giant Hogweed can produce blistering of the skin or burns. This can result in brown pigmentation on the skin which can stay for years.

Stinging Nettle is a leafy type plant that thrives along rivers and streams and shaded areas.

The plant has stinging hairs on the stem, leaves, and flowers. The shaft of the hairs can pierce the skin and allow toxins to enter. Most likely the area will become red and there may be numbness and itching.

The reactions to most of these toxic plants will normally clear up in a few days, but extreme cases may need medical attention.

Before you venture out into the woods, you should familiarize yourself with toxic plants and what they look like so you know what to avoid.

Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times