Could these poisonous plants ruin your summer?

Perhaps this summer most people will be free to walk around and visit their local park or wildlife refuge. Other people who are lucky enough to have a bit of property might delight in watching flowers bloom or vegetables and soft fruits ripen. But since plants know nothing of human viruses or pandemics, the poisonous plants will arrive with the beneficial ones. Fortunately, good lawn management will keep a property both healthy, aesthetically pleasing, and safe to walk on.

Here’s a list of plants to avoid this summer:

Poison Ivy

This notorious poisonous plant can grow as an upright bush, a ground cover, or a vine. Older plants have hairy stems. The leaves are famously divided into three leaflets about 2 to 4 inches long which turn an admittedly beautiful red color in the fall. The white flowers appear from May to July, with the white, berry-like fruit arriving in August. They persist throughout the winter. Every part of the poison ivy plant has oil that causes painful skin inflammation that can lead to blistering. To lessen the impact, wash the area right away with soap or alcohol.

Poison Sumac

A relative of poison ivy, this plant has smooth gray branches that are speckled with black. It can grow from 6 to 20 feet tall and bears leaves that can be a foot long with seven to 12 smooth leaflets. It has yellowish-green flowers in clusters and, like the poison ivy, white, berry-like fruit. Poison sumac is found in swamps and wet places, and like its cousin, its berries are eaten harmlessly by birds and other wildlife.


The thing about mushrooms is that unless a person is an expert they can’t really tell which ones are poisonous just by looking at them. The thing to do is to avoid eating any mushroom unless the diner is 100 percent sure it’s edible.

Walnut Trees

Walnuts aren’t poisonous to humans, but walnut trees do not play well with others. They secrete a toxin into the ground called juglone which kills off most plants that are nearby. So, don’t plant any sort of garden beneath or in the vicinity of a walnut tree. Exceptions are raspberries and soybeans.

Tomatoes, Potatoes, Eggplants

Members of the nightshade family include tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. Every part of these plants, including the leaves, stems, and flowers are poisonous. Only the fruit of the tomato and eggplant is edible, and only the tuber of the potato plant is edible. The fruit of the potato plant resembles a green tomato, and it too is poisonous.


It’s easy to mistake the purplish-black fruit of this poisonous plant for blueberries or blackberries, but they are bitter and toxic. The roots of the pokeweed are also poisonous, but if the young leaves are picked before their veins turn pink, they can be cooked as greens. The plant can grow up to 10 feet tall and has red branches and clusters of white flowers in the summer. One good thing about pokeweed is that the berries attract birds.


This plant is also a member of the nightshade family. It is tall, sturdy, and smooth with a greenish or purplish stem and beautiful but bad-smelling trumpet-shaped flowers of violet or white. It is a type of datura, which is often grown as an ornamental and is just as poisonous. Jimson Weed grows from 1 to 5 feet tall and has a prickly, egg-shaped fruit. Every part of the plant is very poisonous, and cows and sheep often die after eating it. Even touching the plant can raise a rash in some people. As jimsonweed likes to grow in neglected barnyards and fields, good lawn care should keep this plant down.

Could these poisonous plants ruin your summer?

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