Summertime means more time outdoors! Here is a quick guide on various plants throughout Michigan that you should keep yourself, your family, and your pets away from.
Poison ivy is a very common weed in Michigan that grows almost anywhere, including on trees. The slightest of brushing against this plant can cause a serious allergic reaction of painful, itchy bumps. You can get it from anything that has been in contact with the plant’s easily transferable oil, urushiol, including clothing and pets. Fortunately, poison ivy is very easy to identify, just go by the common phrase ‘leaves of three, leave it be’!
Like poison ivy, poison oak can be found in many different areas. This plant typically looks like a shrub, but it can also grow like a vine in shaded areas. Just like poison ivy, the oils on this plant can cause a painful, itchy rash upon even the slightest contact.
Also known as cartwheel-flower, giant cow parsley, giant cow parsnip, or hogsbane, giant hogweed is probably the most dangerous plant on this list. Fortunately, the plant is uncommon (only 2% of suspected plants that get reported are giant hogweed) and its appearance is unmistakable – it grows up to 8-12 feet in height and has huge flower heads that look like inside-out umbrellas. It can cause phytophotodermatitis, an inflammatory reaction that causes your skin to become extremely sensitive to UV light and leads to blistering and can also cause temporary or permanent blindness if it contacts your eyes. The plant is so dangerous that it is illegal to sell or transport it across state lines. If you come into contact with giant hogweed, wash the sap off immediately and follow up with a health care professional for proper treatment.
This invasive plant resembles giant hogweed but is smaller with yellow flowers. It likes to grow along grassy, sunlit areas, roadsides, and park trails where mowing can spread it’s seeds along. Just like giant hogweed, this plant’s sap can also cause phytophotodermatitis, so be sure to keep your distance from it!
This plant is common in southwest Michigan, especially Muskegon, so be sure to keep an eye out if you are in that area. Toxins from poisonous hemlock can seep into your skin upon touch, causing symptoms such as dizziness, trembling, paralysis, and in some cases, death. Even dead plants are dangerous, so wear gloves and a facemask if you must handle them.
The best protection you can give yourself is knowledge! Learn what these plants look like, where they are commonly found, and how to treat yourself if you come into contact with one. If you have plans on going off the main, cleared trails while hiking or camping, try to wear long pants and closed-toe shoes, and keep a first aid kit on hand for immediate treatment.