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6 Pesky Northwest Plants to Avoid this Summer

Adventist Health Health and Wellness

We're fortunate to live in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, where we're surrounded by lush forests, impressive mountains and winding rivers. Oregonians get their daily dose of vitamin N (nature), which is good for mental and behavioral health, as well as your heart.

Heading outdoors is one of the best ways to get exercise and stay healthy this summer while having a little fun and exploring all the beauty Oregon has to offer.

Staying safe this summer

Whether you're hiking on Mount Hood or adventuring to a secluded swimming hole this weekend, medical experts at Adventist Health Medical Group encourage folks to stick to the trail and to stay safe. That includes protecting yourself from the sun and heat, especially during August when temperatures in the Portland metro area will soar to their highest degree.

But while we regularly hear about sun safety, or staying safe around the water, we often forget about the dangers lurking along the path to the secluded lake. Or it could be quietly tucked by the fallen tree we stop to rest against. It's not a dangerous animal or venomous spider, but a pesky poisonous plant.

Running into poison oak or stinging nettle could turn your afternoon adventure into an itchy, burning nightmare, so being able to identify these plants is important. Keep an eye out and remember, "leaves of three, let it be."

6 Poisonous Northwest Plants

Identifying Six Poisonous Plants to Avoid

poison oak

Poison Oak

Poison Oak

This poisonous shrub has wavy leaves with a velvety texture that grow in clusters of three. Just like poison ivy and poison sumac, when the shrub is damaged or irritated it releases urushiol, oil that leads to itching and a rash. For some it can even lead to blisters. During the end of summer, poison oak leaves will turn orange or red.

western poison ivy

Western Poison Ivy

Western Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is shiny and has toothed leaves that grow in clusters of three. It typically grows from a vine, but it can also grow from a shrub, similar to poison oak.

western stinging nettle

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle

This plant's heart-shaped leaves are covered in sharp, tiny hairs tipped with acid and chemicals that sting or burn when they puncture the skin. Steer clear of this venomous plant and the pain it can inflict. One sting from its leaves and next time you'll take the long way around.


Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace (Wild Carrot)

Don't be fooled by this plant's lacy, white flowers and prickly green stalks covered in small green hairs. While the flowers are pretty, a run-in with this trickster can cause skin irritation and rashes. Another notable identifier of Queen Anne's Lace is that when crushed, this deceptive plant gives off an aroma of carrots.

poison hemlock

Poison Hemlock

Poison Hemlock

Identified by its umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers and hairless stalks with purple blotches, do what you can to avoid this toxic plant. Ingesting any part of this plant can lead to burning, nausea, vomiting and confusion. That's worth noting, because the plant bears a striking resemblance to wild carrot root, fennel and parsley. Remember, the best way to know the difference when identifying poison hemlock is the stalks, which will be hairless and spotted.

deadly nightshade

Deadly Nightshade

Deadly Nightshade

It's all in the name. Humans and animals should avoid this plant's bell-shaped purple flowers and toxic berries. Deadly nightshade can be particularly dangerous for children and dogs, who can be drawn to the shiny, black berries.

Spending time outside is good for your heart

While you're trekking through the forest (while keeping an eye out for poison oak of course), also remember that there are various health benefits from exercising combined with spending time outdoors, particularly for your heart.

Dr. Daniel Ananyev, an integrative medicine specialist with Adventist Health Medical Group, has a few tips on keeping your heart healthy this summer, from eating nutritious foods to exercising regularly, and even getting enough high-quality sleep at night.

Our urgent care clinics offer extended evening and weekend hours in case you stumble into poison oak or other trouble while you’re out this summer.

Find urgent care locations and hours on our website.