When you’re hungry, everything looks like food. But as you wander through the woods and harvest wild plants, you need to be aware of the potentially hazardous ones and the annoyances you might encounter. Some foraging trips end in glory, while others end in shame, pain, sickness, or even death. Make sure you minimize the latter four by learning about your local dangerous plants and knowing your risks.
Don’t Be Fooled: The trickiest part of foraging is avoiding the dangerous plants that look enticing. Berries are usually the worst culprit, followed by nuts, fruits, and other plant parts. Keep the following off your menu.
Pokeweed berries (Phytolacca Americana): Cause digestive distress and death Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans): Can cause a severe rash Wisteria beans (Wisteria spp.): Lead to respiratory troubles, coma, or death Comfrey (Symphytum officinale): Causes liver damage Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus): Caused digestive upset, but rarely fatal
Act Quickly: In the event that you consume a poisonous plant, you’ll need to act fast. While most poisonings merely cause digestive distress, you don’t want to take the chance that worse symptoms won’t develop. A quick response to toxins will minimize the damage they can cause and perhaps even save a life.
If Medical Care Is Available: Call 911 immediately if a poisoning is suspected. Give them the name of the plant or the best description you can muster. Explain the plant part eaten and how much was consumed. Provide the time and manner of consumption, as well as the age and weight of the victim. Finally, describe the poisoning symptoms that are being observed. Wait for an ambulance or take a trip to the doctor, as directed.
If Medical Care Is Not Available: Have the victim drink several glasses of water, and induce vomiting. This can be done by sticking a finger down the throat, or consuming an emetic (like ipecac syrup). Vomit several times, until the stomach is clear, then monitor the victim for symptoms of shock or other serious medical issues. Try to get to medical care as soon as possible.