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Plant Safety: Poisonous Plant Basics

I’ve told you all about herbs and plants that you should grow and/or buy for holistic purposes like healing and just overall wellbeing. But did you know that there are plants that can kill you? It’s shocked me at first too. But they can hurt as easily as they can heal and season your food. So, to distract you from the loneliness of quarantine, I’ll be telling you about how to indentify poisonous plants, fungi, herbs, etc. and how to handle them properly.

What Makes A Specimen Poisonous/Dangerous?

Why are some things deadly while other things heal and nourish? What makes them that way? A lot of the time it’s because it’s a defense mechanism for survival, like snakes and other venomous creatures. However, venomous doesn’t mean poisonous. Venomous means that if they bite you, then you die. Poisonous means that if you bite it, you’ll die. But, I’m not here to give you an English lesson, I’m here to teach you about poisonous organisms!

What makes a plant/fungus/herb deadly? For the exact same reason that snakes are venomous, birds have claws, and snails have shells, for protection. Plants/fungi/herbs can’t move so as a result a lot of organisms are poisonous. This way, they can create more of themselves. Their goal is to reproduce like many species.

But how can they not poison themselves? Well, the toxins they carry are held in little sacs in the cell called vacuoles all throughout the organism. This structure makes it so the poison goes to the consumer rather than the producer. However, plants can kill other plants when they take over or feed off their roots. Plants are pretty hardcore, huh?

Poisonous vs Safe

When out and about, especially in the wilderness, you need to know what you can and cannot touch/pick up. Knowing the signs can be the difference between life and death or clear skin and an awful rash. Not every plant or fungus will have the same tell but there are some tell tale signs to look out for no matter what. So here are a few tips and tricks to surviving out there:

  1. Research: This is so important because poisonous plants often look like their photographs. So, I would advise you to get familiar with the photos or get yourself a plant guide.

  2. Watch Where You Step: It’s especially true if you’re wearing shorts. Look around you and be aware of where you’re about to step of things could get icky.

  3. Look Before Touching: Don’t go touching things willy-nilly touching pretty plants and fungi. That leads down a dangerous path.

  4. Remember the Rule: At camp we were taught “Leaves of three, let it be,” meaning if the plant grew in clusters of three, it’s likely that it’s poisonous. There are exceptions to the rule like poison sumac which grows in clusters of 7-13, though.

  5. Bright Colors: Please...don’t go around touching and picking up beautifully colored plants and fungi if you don’t know whether or not they are poisonous. Many toxic organisms hold warning within their natural colors so please keep that in mind.

In the event that you have touched or digested a toxic substance, please seek heplease from park rangers, 911, or any professional nearby.

Plants are fun! But they can also be dangerous. Keep your wits about you and do some learning. Next time, I’ll talking about the different types of toxic/poisonous plants and fungi as well as how to properly handle them for scientific use! Keep learning and keep it natural!

Plant Safety: Poisonous Plant Basics was researched, written, and edited by Emmalie Roberts. For more articles, check out our blog page, here, and don't forget to follow us on social media, here, for daily tips, tricks, and reminders for your path to holistic health.

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