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OUTDOOR SURVIVAL

Poisonous Plants: How Plants Poison

Plants generally poison by--

  • Ingestion. When a person eats a part of a poisonous plant.
  • Contact. When a person makes contact with a poisonous plant that causes any type of skin irritation or dermatitis.
  • Absorption or inhalation. When a person either absorbs the poison through the skin or inhales it into the respiratory system.

Plant poisoning ranges from minor irritation to death. A common question asked is, "How poisonous is this plant?" It is difficult to say how poisonous plants are because--

  • Some plants require contact with a large amount of the plant before noticing any adverse reaction while others will cause death with only a small amount.
  • Every plant will vary in the amount of toxins it contains due to different growing conditions and slight variations in subspecies.
  • Every person has a different level of resistance to toxic substances.
  • Some persons may be more sensitive to a particular plant.

Some common misconceptions about poisonous plants are--

  • Watch the animals and eat what they eat. Most of the time this statement is true, but some animals can eat plants that are poisonous to humans.
  • Boil the plant in water and any poisons will be removed. Boiling removes many poisons, but not all.
  • Plants with a red color are poisonous. Some plants that are red are poisonous, but not all.

The point is there is no one rule to aid in identifying poisonous plants. You must make an effort to learn as much about them as possible.