Category Archives: Poison Plants

White Baneberry Facts and Information

White Baneberry Facts and Information

General Information

White baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), also known as dolls eyes white cohosh, white-beads, white beads and toadroot is a native wildflower to the western hemisphere. It is a perennial member of white baneberry is sometimes called Dolls Eyes because the shiny white fruits resemble the china eyes once used in dollsthe buttercup family growing in eastern North America. The plant flowers from May to June with white berries following that ripen over the summer. The berries will stay on the plant until frost. Many people use white baneberry in landscaping taking the plant from woodlands. In many cases this is illegal and in several states such as New York and Florida, the actions have led to the plant being listed as exploitably vulnerable and endangered respectively. Taking seeds and planting them in domestic landscape may take two years to germinate and adversely affect the natural environment. If you find white baneberry interesting and wish to include it in your landscaping, please contact a stocking nursery – if they do not have in stock, they can special order.

Description

White baneberry grows to about 18 inches to 2 feet tall and can spread from 2 feet to 3 feet wide. Its leThe roots and berries of white baneberry are the most poisonous parts of baneberryaves are toothed at the edges and are also compound. They are roughly 16 inches long and 12 inches wide. The leaves grow alternately on the stem – this means one leaf comes out at a time on the stem.

The flowers are small – maybe ¼ to ½ inch and are colored white and grow on the end of a stalk. As referenced earlier, the flowers bloom from May to June. The picture of the white baneberry flower comes from USDA plant database.

What is so interesting about this plant are the berries and the way they sit on the plant. They look almost alien. One of its nicknames, dolls eyes is spot on. The berries are not really that big, ½ inch or so in diameter, all white with a black stigma scar.

Habitat

White baneberry thrive in moist, fertile soil with lots of organic white baneberry range mapmatter in partial to full shade. White baneberry is an upland plant and almost never occurs in wetlands. The picture of the plant with berries was taken in the Southern Adirondacks in a deciduous forest border facing south above a small lake.

Range A range map indicates, white baneberry grows North into Ontario Canada and east to Nova Scotia. It grows as far south as Florida and west out to Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Edible

Although I have read that certain birds dowhite baneberry leaves are toothed at the edges and are also compound eat the berries, the entire plant, just like Climbing Nightshade, is poisonous including the leaves, stalk, and especially the berries. If eaten, symptoms include nausea, vomiting, cramps, mouth blisters, confusion, and headache. The plant’s poison also has cardiogenic properties and can cause cardiac arrest (heart attack) in in children and immune compromised adults. This is a plant best admired for its beauty and left alone.

Poison Sumac Information

Poison Sumac

General:Poison sumac only grows in very wet areas.

Poison sumac – Toxicodendron Vernix, grows in swamps, bogs, depressions, and other wet areas. Like both poison ivy and poison oak, poison sumac produces urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an itching rash in most people who touch it.
Poison sumac basically manifests itself as a woody shrub or small tree. Unlike both poison ivy and poison oak, poison sumac is not an overly common plant.

Identification:

Poison sumac is a woody shrub or a small, slender tree that measures 5′-20′ tall. The leaves are pinnately compound (meaning – the leaflets grow from several places along the stalk) and alternate along the stem. The plant is deciduous so the leaves fall in the autumn turning brilliant orange to red in color. Each leaf stem contains 7 to 15 leaflets that are usually 2″ to 4″ long and 1″ to 2″ wide, and elliptic

Distinguish poison sumac shrubs from their harmless namesakes and consider the latter for great fall foliage

to oblong in outline. The lower leaf surface is lighter green and the edges are smooth (not toothed). The central leaf stalk is typically reddish colored.

New stems are smooth and reddish, but they gradually turn tan to light gray with age. These light-colored leafless stems can look deceptively like other non-toxic shrubs or trees during the winter. Small greenish flowers are followed by white berries similar to poison ivy.

Location:

As can be seen in the map, poison sumac is found in most of the eastern United States, between Texas and Florida in the south, to Minnesota and Quebec in the north. Poison sumac is generally found in wet soil. The picture above was taken at the University of Michigan – Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, MI. It was on the side of a hill in very wet soil.

Poison:poison sumac distribution is primarily in eastern North America

Urushiol binds to the skin on contact, where it causes severe itching that often develops into a red rash or flesh colored bumps and blistering. The rash can be treated with Calamine lotion or other over the counter remedies such as oatmeal baths and baking soda. In severe cases hospitalization may be required or if the plant has been ingested.

Urushiol oil can remain active for several years, so handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects (such as pet fur) can cause the rash if it comes into contact with the skin.

The fluids released by scratching the blisters do not spread the poison or the rash. The fluid in the blisters is produced by the body and it is not by urushiol.

Climbing Nightshade Information and Description

Climbing Nightshade

 

General:Bittersweet is a semi-woody herbaceous perennial vine, which scrambles over other plants, capable of reaching a height of 12 feet

Climbing nightshade (woody nightshade) is native to Europe and Asia and now is widely distributed in North America where it is an invasive plant. Once established it is a problem to remove. It is a double problem since it can grow from both seeds and roots. Although poisonous to livestock, pets and humans I have seen birds eat the ripe berries. The plant has a very distinct order (rather unique and putrid) when cut. Once you smell it you will never forget it. Climbing nightshade is also known as bittersweet, bittersweet nightshade, bitter nightshade, blue bindweed, Amara Dulcis, climbing nightshade, fellenwort, felonwood, poisonberry, poisonflower, scarlet berry, snakeberry, trailing bittersweet, trailing nightshade, violet bloom, or woody nightshade

Climbing nightshade is a relatively important in the diet of some species of birdsDescription:

The plant is a slender climbing or trailing perennial reaching 12 feet in length. Leaves are alternate, ovate, simple or deeply lobed, 1-1/2 to 4 inches long, and pointed at the tip. Flowers are deep purple or bluish purple with flower stalk arising between the leaf nodes or opposite the leaves. Nearly round fruits turn red when mature and stay on the vines through mid winter.

Location:

As the map indicates, climbing nightshade is very common throughout much of North America. Climbing nightshade has a very wide range of habitats, from woodlands to scrubland, hedges and marshes. It is common in suburban areas where it can be found climbing up fences or hedges especially in shaded areas. This grows on my property where pines shade a fence and within a hemlock hedge. The only way I know to organically remove climbing nightshade is to pull the plan and roots. For several years you will need to catch the growth quickly before there are berries.

Poison:Climbing nightshade is widely distributed throughout North America

The plant, especially in its green immature fruits, contains steroidal alkaloids, which have caused poisoning in cattle and sheep. 1
Symptoms may include: Vomiting, diarrhea – common and drowsiness. 2

1 http://www.cbif.gc.ca/pls/pp/ppack.info?p_psn=55&p_type=all&p_sci=comm
2 http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/poison-control/Plants/climbing-nightshade.aspx

 

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Poison Ivy – Toxicodendron radicans

Poison Ivy

General:

Poison ivy is a common North American plant that produces urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an poison ivy is widely distributed and can be mistakenitching rash in most people who touch it. The fluids released by scratching the blisters do not spread the poison or the rash. The fluid in the blisters is produced by the body and it is not by urushiol.

Poison ivy likes to grow in suburban areas and many people I know have unwittingly cleaned out “weeds” along neighboring fences only to wake up the next day with the signature itchy rash.

Description:

Poison ivy can be found growing in any of the following three forms

Trailing vine that is 4 to 10 inches high

poison ivy generally has three leaves and white berriesShrub up to 4 feet tall

A climbing vine that grows on trees or some other support. Older vines on substantial supports send out lateral branches that may at first be mistaken for tree limbs.

Poison ivy leaves are deciduous and typical form in clusters 3 on their own stem that are almond-shaped. The leaves grow alternately on the main stem. The leaves are not very large – approximately 1 ½” – 5” long. Like other plants that are deciduous, the leaves of poison ivy change color with age and season starting out often times red in spring then to green then red, orange, or yellow in the fall. The stems are smooth – this easily distinguishes poison ivy from blackberry vines.  The leaves as shown by the picture can have slight serrated edges and as the leaf matures can be shiny.

Vines growing on the trunk of a tree become firmly attached through numerous aerial rootlets. One problem here is that poison ivy grows in the same areas as Virginia creeper, so care must be exercised because you will not be able to clearly identify poison ivy in this situation. Poison ivy vines can have a “hairy” appearance, which can help in identification.
Poison ivy flowers from May to July. The flowers are yellowish- or greenish-white located in clusters approximately 3” above the leaves. The berries mature by August to November and are grayish-white in color.

Location:

Poison ivy grows throughout much of North America, including eastern Canada in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and all U.S. states east of the Rockies, as well as in areas of Mexico. So the lesson here is that you can expect it just about anywhere. When out and about hiking or camping you will likely find poison ivy in wooded areas, much of the time in open areas that receive sun. It also grows in exposed rocky areas and in open fields.

Poison:

Urushiol binds to the skin on contact, where it causes severe itching that often develops into a red rash or flesh colored bumps and blistering. The rash can be treated with Calamine lotion or other over the counter remedies such as oatmeal baths and baking soda. In severe cases hospitalization may be required or if the plant has been ingested.
Urushiol oil can remain active for several years, so handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects (such as pet fur) can cause the rash if it comes into contact with the skin.

Pacific Poison Oak – Toxicodendron diversilobum

poison oak Pacific Poison Oak

General:

Pacific poison-oak, a member of the sumac family, is a deciduous plant that grows throughout many parts of west coast. Urushiol, found on the stems, berries and leaves is the main component of the oily resin that causes rashes and blistering. Poison oak can survive under a wide range of temperatures, elevations, soil types, moisture conditions,

Description:

Western poison oak is variable in plant growth and leaf appearance. It can grow as a dense shrub, a tree with a 3” – 8” trunk or as a climbing vine.
When Pacific poison-oak grows as a shrub, it can reach up to 13 feet tall. When poison oak grows as a vine or tree, stems can reach up to 82 feet long. Twigs can be hairless to sparsely hairy and gray to reddish brown.

poison oak berries when ripe will turn whiteLeaves, generally resembling the leaves of a true oak, consist of three, and sometimes up to five leaflets but three leaflet leaves are most common. Leaf edges can be smooth, wavy, or have slightly rounded lobes. The upper leaf surface is hairless, or nearly so, and usually slightly glossy. The lower surface usually has sparse, short hairs. Leaves turn bright red in the autumn.

White flowers form in the spring in leaf axils, where the leaf meets or connects to the stalk, and white or tan berries usually form later in the summer

Without leaves, poison oak stems may sometimes be identified by occasional black marks where its milky sap may have oozed and dried.
Location: as the map indicates, western poison oak is found only on the Pacific Coast of the United States and of Canada. southern Canada to the Baja California peninsula.

Poison:

Urushiol binds to the skin on contact, where it causes severe itching that often develops into a red rash or flesh colored bumps and blistering. Symptoms generally appear 12 to 48 hours later. The rash can be treated with Calamine lotion or other over the counter remedies such as oatmeal baths and baking soda. In severe cases hospitalization may be required or if the plant has been ingested.

Urushiol oil can remain active for several years, so handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects (such as pet fur) can cause the rash if it comes into contact with the skin.
Severe respiratory irritation can be induced by breathing the smoke from burning plant material. Repeated exposure often results in increased sensitivity.