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12 Common Plants To Avoid While Camping And Hiking  

Jonathan H. Kantor
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Camping and hiking is a great way for city folks to get out and experience the great outdoors, but you want to make sure you are prepared for your trip by knowing just what plants are best left alone. Most people know about things like poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and other plants that will make you itch, but there are plenty of dangerous and even deadly plants out there that could end your trip immediately, and nobody wants that to happen.

Check out these plants every hiker or camper should avoid, and know that there are many more that didn't make this list. Check for a local field guide to find out what grows in the area(s) you will be spending some time to make sure your trip isn't ruined by severe rashes or even more severe medical issues! If you see a plant in the list out in the wild, be sure to steer clear so you can continue enjoying the rest of your trip.

Nettle is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 12 Common Plants To Avoid While Camping And Hiking
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Stinging Nettle - Urtica Dioica

Where You'll Find It: Worldwide

Why You Want To Avoid It: The stinging nettle is so-called due to the presence of hollow stinging hairs all over the leaves and stems of the plant. These act as microscopic hypodermic needles, capable of injecting histamine and other chemicals directly into the skin.

Simple contact with these plants causes contact dermatitis, which makes them particularly irritating. They are used in some traditional medicine practices and can be eaten or used as a tea if prepared correctly, but you should probably avoid them outright if all you're doing is trying to have a fun and relaxing time in the woods.

Poison ivy is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 12 Common Plants To Avoid While Camping And Hiking
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Where You'll Find It: Asia and North America

Why You Want To Avoid It: Poison Ivy is poisonous. Believe it or not, the name wasn't given to make it sound cool, so you want to avoid it at all costs. The plant is dangerous to touch as it induces an itchy, irritating, and occasionally dangerous reaction to the skin.

There are many different types of poison ivy, so you should familiarize yourself with the local variants before deciding they make a lovely bedding for your next cmaping trip.

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Oak is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 12 Common Plants To Avoid While Camping And Hiking
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Where You'll Find It: North America

Why You Want To Avoid It: Poison Oak is a vine or shrub related to the sumac, and is one of many so-called "poison" plants you want to avoid. Touching or ingesting the leaves or acorns can lead to irritation of the skin or mucous membrane in humans, but burning it is far more dangerous.

Should you decide to throw some poison oak onto a campfire, you need to leave the area immediately! Inhaling the smoke made from burning the plant can lead to respiratory distress and even respiratory failure in some people.

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Sumac is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 12 Common Plants To Avoid While Camping And Hiking
Photo: Robert H. Mohlenbrock/WIkimedia Commons/Public Domain
Poison Sumac - Toxicodendron Vernix

Where You'll Find It: Eastern North America

Why You Want To Avoid It: The plant is called "poison" for a reason, so that should keep you away. Every part of the tree contains a resin called urushiol, which can cause skin and mucous membrane irritation in people.

While touching or eating the plant is dangerous, the last thing you want to do is throw it into a campfire. When burned, the smoke can cause rashes in the lungs through inhalation, and this can be both painful and even deadly if you have a severe enough reaction.