Michigan Plants That Can Harm – or Even KILL You
We may be heading into cooler weather but don't let that fool ya...there are still dangerous plants out there. They are all a huge pain in the butt, especially if you come in contact with ANY of 'em. I've been there a few times throughout my life, so you can believe me. In fact, it's been very recently.
These plants can scar, itch, ooze, agonize, burn, cause swelling, blisters, rashes, and some can cause permanent blindness and even kill you. This is serious stuff here!
Here are dangerous Michigan plants to be on the alert for:
Cow Parsnip and Hogweed look alike, with Hogweed much more toxic. The leaves and stems contain a sap loaded with toxins. When exposed to light, the chemicals in the sap will cause extreme skin burning. Upon contact, wash thoroughly and keep covered. If it was indeed Hogweed, you should see a doctor.
Deadly Nightshade can be found growing in dumps, quarries, near old buildings, under trees, on hills...and in your own backyard. It's usually a 4-foot tall bush with 7-inch long leaves, bell-shaped purple flowers and green berries that turn black when ripe. When black, the berries are at their most poisonous. The plant contains Scopolamine and hyoscyamine which cause people to become delirious and hallucinate. If eaten, two berries can kill a child in minutes, and an adult by 10 minutes. Eating a leaf can do the same. If symptoms arise, drink a big glass of warm vinegar or mustard & water, to dilute the poison.
Poison Ivy grows everywhere in ground patches or vines. Often mistaken for poison oak, poison ivy leaves look more like the state of Michigan. Of the three leaves in poison ivy, the right leaf resembles the mitten, the left leaf looks like a reverse mitten, and the middle leaf has a thumb on both sides. I always have trouble identifying poison ivy, as there are so many plants that look like it....one thing that might give it away is its semi-glossy appearance.
Poison Oak leaves look like regular oak leaves in clusters of three. They have a glossy look to them and can either be in shrubs up to 13 feet tall or viney plants that wrap around nearby trees and poles, reaching up to 100 feet or more.
Poison Sumac is similar to the non-poisonous Staghorn Sumac, but you can distinguish them by the berries. Poison Sumac has clusters of white berries while the non-poisonous has red berries in cone-shaped clusters. Poison Sumac berries do not turn red...just white.
The above three plants – poison ivy, oak & sumac - contain Urushiol, described as “an oily mixture of organic compounds with allergenic properties”. This is what causes the skin reactions. So, you say you have poison ivy, oak or sumac on your property and you want to burn 'em out, right? WRONG. NEVER burn these plants. The burning puts poisonous smoke in the air that is dangerous to you or anyone close by. If you get this in your lungs, you'll be in emergency.
Stinging Nettle is a tough one to ride out, because even though you may wash & scrub it off your skin, chances are the extremely tiny nettles will still be in your clothes, shoes, socks, shoelaces, and gloves. The rashes are caused by Formic Acid and Histamine in the little prickers. Even though its a medicinal plant, it's tough to avoid the nettles. Rashes can get extreme.
Water Hemlock and Poison Hemlock may be the most dangerous of all. Don't take it upon yourself to get rid of these killers. Hire a professional. One small leaf could literally kill you in a matter of minutes. If you get the toxin on your hands and then wipe your eyes, you could go permanently blind; putting your fingers in the mouth could kill you.
Yeah, these cut-throat killers may look harmless, and even look like other harmless weeds, but be safe rather than sorry. When in doubt, look it up on the internet...and get a professional gardener or weed exterminator over pronto.