Texas Living

Don’t Mess With These 7 Texas Plants

By Casey Kelly-Barton 5.25.16

Watch your step when you’re exploring nature in Texas this spring, or you could wind up with an itchy rash, a thorny pain, or worse — courtesy of some unfriendly flora and fauna.

The Lone Star State is home to hundreds of native plant species, and most are harmless, but some are hazardous to our health and comfort. Beware these common plants during your outdoor adventures.

Leaf Them Alone

Most of us don’t eat wild plants, but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. Skin contact with poison ivy, the infamous plant with “leaves of three,” often leads to an itchy, blistered rash that can spread across the body — and can travel from contaminated clothes and pet fur to other people. Calamine lotion, a cold compress, or an antihistamine may provide some temporary relief.

Poison sumac is another rash-producing plant with two parallel rows of leaves growing along its red stems. You’re more likely to find it in wet woodland areas, so watch out on East Texas hikes. Cactus thorns are sharp, and that’s not all. You may be able to remove the thorns rather easily using duct tape, but they often leave behind fragments in the skin that itch for days.

Scary Berries

Picking and eating berries is fun when you know what to pick and what to leave alone. Green lantana berries are toxic and can cause fatal heart and kidney damage. Mistletoe grows in trees across the eastern half of Texas, and its berries can be lethal, too. Kiss under it if you wish, but don’t eat it. If you ingest toxic berries, call 911 or a poison control center immediately.

Know the Difference

All parts of poison onion (also known as death camas) and water hemlock are highly toxic to people who eat them, usually after mistaking them for similar nontoxic wild onions and wild parsnips, respectively. Unless you’re certain you can tell the difference, skip the nature buffet for safety’s sake.

Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service has a longer list of common toxic plants found in woods, swamps, fields, and home gardens. If you suspect plant poisoning, call the Texas Poison Center Network at 800-222-1222. Check out Texas Heritage for Living® for plenty of home and garden tips.