We've all heard of Poison Ivy, the notorious vine that leaves those in contact with blisters, a rash, and painful itchiness. Yet, there are three other plants in BC with far less awareness and potentially worse impacts - the Devil's Club, Giant Hogweed, and Spurge Laurel.
The Devil's Club or Alaskan Ginseng
Devil’s Club can grow up to three metres tall with crooked stems that are covered in tough yellow spines. It has large broad leaves with many spines on the underside. If the plant is touched the spines will break off and cause severe infection. The plant was single-handedly reported having forced railway engineers to reroute the CPR railway system around known patches of the plant.
The invasive Giant Hogweed can reach up 5 metres in height and has numerous small white flowers clustered around an umbrella-shaped head. Dark green leaves are coarsely jagged with 3 large segments with stiff underside hairs.
Both the Giant Hogweed's stem hairs and leaves contain a clear, highly toxic sap that when in contact with the skin, can cause burns, blisters, and scarring. WorkSafe BC has issued a Toxic Plant Warning for Giant Hogweed that requires workers to dress appropriately around the plant.
Giant Hogweed is a highly successful plant due to its aggressive early-season growth, and its tolerance of shade. Additionally, each plant can produce up to 100,000 winged seeds that remain viable in the soil for up to 15 years.
Another invasive species Spurge Laurel is neither a Spurge or a Laurel, it is a flowering shrub that resembles the Pacific Rhododendron, and can be commonly found in domestic gardens as well as damp lowland areas. It can reach heights of 1.5 metres and out-compete nearly all native species. Berries occur in late summer and are poisonous to people and pets, alike.
Toxins are found in the bark and sap, and if contacted, the sap is known to cause skin rashes, nausea, swelling of the tongue. Coma's and the death of at least one child in Nova Scotia has been linked to the consumption of its berries.
If you find yourself in the woods or around unknown plants, it's always recommended to be safe and stay away from that which you don't know. If you would like to recommend other plants people stay away from, please list in the comments below.