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Avoiding poisonous plants in the wild

  • Jun 27, 2014

Poison ivy, oak and sumac - oh my. Nature is filled with incredible beauty and adventure, but also many nasty plants looking to make your next adventure an itchy disaster. The key to avoiding this devilish vegetation is knowledge. Understand where poisonous plants tend to grow and know what to do if you find yourself up close and personal with their treacherous leaves.

Identify the enemy

While you can generally follow the "leaves of three, let it be" rule for identifying poison ivy and oak species, sumac varieties generally have 7-13 leaves. Poison ivy lives up to its name, with ropey vines that often spread along fences and tangle with nearby plant life. Poison oak can be easily picked out by its white berries and yellow-green flowers. Beware of shiny leaves coming from these long stems - the glistening oil will give you a bad rash that can be especially painful and prolonged if you're allergic. Finally, poison sumac's leaves have the same greasy sheen but more of a woody shrub as a base. Beware.

When it's too late

If you forgot your watch compass and get led off the trail, you may run into one of these problematic plants. If you think you've been exposed, make sure you have a plan to minimize discomfort and reduce the spreading of your rash. Immediately wash the area of contact with plenty of water, mixing everything from rubbing alcohol to dishwashing soap, degreasing fluid and detergent. Scrub under your nails and rinse your hands thoroughly, refraining from touching your face and eyes for a good while. If itching and burning persists, relax in an oatmeal bath as you consider an alternative route for your next journey through the woods.

Who would have thought that wild animals aren't the only thing to fear while in the woods? So be smart and follow your PRG270-1 and stay on the trail. With it's compass and Altimeter you should never be lost and have to go up against these itchy disasters.

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