Dangerous Plants in Western New York [PHOTOS]
It's going to be a dry week, which means you might finally get out to do some yard work -- but before you do, make sure you can identify the most common poisonous plants found in western New York.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, there are six major plants that can cause rashes or other skin irritation -- in some cases, severe burns.
This is one of the most familiar poisonous plants in WNY. The NY DEC says this, "Poison ivy grows as a vine or small shrub that can trail along the ground or climb low plants, trees and poles. Each leaf has three glossy leaflets with smooth or toothed edges. Leaves are reddish in spring, green in summer, and yellow, orange, or red in fall. The plant may have greenish-white flowers and whitish-yellow berries. Every part of the plant contains an oil that inflames skin and results in painfully itchy blisters and rashes. Inhalation of smoke from burning leaves and vines is extremely hazardous. Poison ivy is often found growing in young woodlands, thickets, path edges, sand dunes, walls and roadways."
Poison Sumac can appear as a small shrub or tree, and grow up to 20 feet tall. Poison sumac thrives in wet environments, which could be troublesome given this year's wet spring. The NY DEC says, "Each leaf has clusters of 7-13 smooth-edged leaflets. Its leaves are orange in spring, green in summer, and yellow, orange, or red in fall. Poison sumac may have yellow-greenish flowers and whitish green fruits that hang in loose clusters. Every part of the plant contains an oil that inflames skin and results in painfully itchy blisters and rashes. Inhalation of smoke from burning leaves and vines is extremely hazardous."
The Giant Hogweed is among the most dangerous plants on the list. It has a special chemical that causes burns on skin when exposed to sunlight.
The NY DEC reports, "The plant has white flowers that appear in late summer, forming a large, flat-topped umbel up to 2.5 feet across. Hollow, rigid stems grow 2-4 inches in diameter, can be 8-14 feet tall, and have purple blotches and coarse hairs. Leaves can be 5 feet across and are lobed and deeply incised. Giant hogweed is usually found growing in rich, moist soils in open fields, wooded areas, tree lines, roadsides, ditches and along streams and rivers. Its sap contains a phototoxin that reacts with ultraviolet light to cause skin irritation ranging from a mild rash to severe blistering."
Cow Parsnip looks a lot like Giant Hogweed, and it's sap also causes blistering and burns.
According to the NY DEC, "This large plant grows 3-10 feet tall. Leaves are 12"-18", rough and hairy, and divided into 3 segments with coarsely toothed leaflets and a broad wing at the base of each leaf stalk. Stems are rough, hairy, hollow and grooved. The plant has white or cream colored flowers that bloom in mid-summer. These flowers have 5 petals of different sizes and are arranged in broad, flat-topped clusters at the top of short stalks. Cow parsnip grows in a variety of habitats including woodlands, forest openings, grasslands, stream and river edges and along roadsides."
Just like the Cow Parsnip and Giant Hogweed, this plant causes burns and blisters. The NY DEC says, "it grows 2-5 feet tall and is found along roadsides, in pastures, and in fields. Its leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, branched, and have saw-toothed edges. Each leaf has 5-15 ovate to oblong leaflets with variable toothed edges and deep lobes. The plant's stem is hollow and deeply grooved. Wild parsnip has small, 5-petaled, yellow flowers that are arranged in a flat-topped broad umbel 2-6 inches across and appear June-September. The flowers produce a round, smooth, straw-colored seed pod that is approximately 0.25 inches in size. Sap in all parts of the plant contains a phototoxin that reacts with ultraviolet light to cause skin irritation ranging from a mild rash to severe blistering."
Stinging Nettle is an interesting plant -- it has many health benefits, but can also be dangerous in the wild. According to the NY DEC, "can be identified by its stinging hairs, opposite heart-shaped leaves, and small greenish flowers. The stinging hairs on stems and leaves produce an intense burning and itching sensation that can last up to 30 minutes. The plant is most often found in forests or at the edges of woods and streams."