Plants to avoid when Hiking or Camping in Canada

Caitlin McCormack - Yahoo Shine July 22, 2014
Learning how to spot harmful plants in the Canadian outdoors can not only save you some uncomfortable reactions like swelling and itching, but it could save your life.  Here are some to be especially careful of, and how to spot them if you come across them in the woods.
Giant Hogweed
Giant Hogweed is a plant that originated in Europe, but can now frequenty be found along roadsides and stream bank sides in Ontario.  "It grows to height of 2-5 meters, with purple coloured stalks that are often spotted, with course jagged leaves", notes Dan Truesdale, an outdoor recreation expert and garden enthusiast at Mountain Equipment Co-op.  He notes that giant hogweed is a phototoxic plant that can cause long-lasting purple and black scars.  "And if it comes in contact with the eyes, it can also cause temporary or permanent blindness".
Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy is found widely across the country and is famous in both song and woodlore.  "As most people are aware, this plant will cause very painful swelling and rashes if contacted with bare skin", notes Neil Jennings, MEC employee and author of several wildflower guides published by Rocky Mountain Books, including Coastal Beauty - Wildflowers and Flowing Shrubs of Coastal British Columbia and Vancouver Island. He notes that most common warnings about touching plants are easy-to-remember rhymes.  "leaves of three, let it be - hairy vine, no friend of mine - berries of white, run in fright".
Devil's Club
Th Devil's Club plant occurs mostly in western Canada, in shaded places that are very damp or near running water.  It can grow up to 10 feet tall.  You can spot this plant by it's giant maple-shaped leaves and sharp spines.  It features a white flower cluster in the spring that matures into red berry cluster.
Jennings says that Devils Club is undoubtedy one of the most meanest plants in the woods.  He explains that in Latin, the plant is known as Oplopanax horridus, "Oplopanax being derived from Greek, hoplon, meaning "weapon" - which this plant has plently of in the form of very sharp spines that break off in the skin of unwary passersby and quickly become septic".
He adds that, "the specific epithet, horridus, comes from the same root as the word "horrible", and speaks volumes about why you should avoid this plant at all costs".
Poison Oak
Poison Oak looks like small shrub, only growing to about 1 metre in height.  You can spot the Poison Oak thanks to its 'leaves of three' which have velvety hairs on the underside, and rounded tips.  "Every part of this plant contains rash-inducing urushiol," says Truesdale.  "Found in dry fields and forest beds; stay just as clear of the dead ones, as they can reman toixc for up to five years.
Prickly-Pear Cactus
The Prickly-Pear Cactus is a relatively common cactus in the Canadian west, and is covered with very sharp spines, which Jennings says can penetrate even strudy footwear to inflict nasty and painful stabs.  "The spines are actually modified leaves, so these plants have their weapons all year round and not just seasonally like other plants," he says, adding "a close relative, the Cushion Cactus often exists with the Prickly-Pear, and it should also be carefully avioded."
Canadian Moonseed
Th Canadian Moonseed is a vine found in wet forest areas and riverbanks throughout eastern North America.  Spot the Canadian Moonseed by its greenish-white flowers and black, higly toxic berries.  "The can easily be confused with wild grapes, which have round seeds," says Truesdale.  "Moonseeds, as the name suggests, are shaped like a cresent moon."
Stinging Nettles
Stinging Nettle is a very common plant found throughout the world, particularly were habitat is damp, reaching heights of about 1 metre.  "It's genus name Urtica is derived from the Lation uro which means "to burn", a very understandable reference to aybody who has had the misfortune of getting up close and personal with these plants", says Jennings.
You can spot Stinging Nettle by its heart-shaped, finey toothed leaves with tapered ends.  Flowers are yellow or pink.  Covering the underside of the leaves are fine stinging hairs that break off in the skin like miniature needles when they are touched.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit is found in damp forest areas and bushes, and produces scarlet berries in late summer and autumn.  Like the Canadian Moonseed, you'll want to steer clear of this plant's berries. "ingesting the berries will cause a severe burning sensation in the mouth and throat, as the entire plant contains needle-like calcium oxalate crystals", notes Truesdale.
Water Hemlock
Water Hemlock, like the name suggests, is a plant found close to marshes, river and stream banks, and low wet areas.  Spot Water Hemlock by its notched leaves and white to greenish-coloured flowers grouped in the shape of an umbrella.  Jennings notes that Water Hemlock is one of the most poisonous plants in North America.
"All parts of the plant are poionsous. Serveral of its common names are 'Children's Bane', ' Beaver Poison', and 'Death of Man'.  The toxin is called cicutoxin, and it acts on the central nervous system to cause violent convulsions, followed by paralysis and respiratory failure", he says.
Treatment is often unsuccessful becaue Water Hemlock is so highly poisonous and symptoms occur so rapidly. 

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