Poisonous plants in NC are ones that you should be knowing how to identify, to help and keep your innocent pets, livestock, and children safe. Touching or ingesting these plants cause blisters, skin rash, or death.

7 Poisonous Plants in NC

But how will you know the plants to avoid when gardening or hiking? This list contains the toxic plants’ characteristics, their effects on the body, and what to do when you touch them. 

List of Poisonous Plant In NC You Should Never Get Close to

1. Poison Hemlock

Poison Hemlock

Plant Identification
  • Bright-green fern-like leaves
  • Musty odor on crushed leaves
  • Red or purple spots on stems
Growing Locations
  • Fields
  • Vacant plots
  • Roadsides
  • Paralysis of the central nervous system and muscles
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Death 
  • Seek medical advice
  • Contact your vet

Poison hemlock is one of the invasive, extremely poisonous types of plants in North Carolina. It mainly grows along roadsides, stream banks, and ditches and is also common in pastures.

Poison hemlock NC looks like fern plants because of its green, fern-like, finely divided foliage. It has hollow hairless stems with purple spots or streaks, and the stems have ridges. The plant grows to bear beautiful white flowers that grow in clusters and form an umbrella shape at the tip of the branches.

This intoxicating hemlock is deadly to people and animals. Ingestion of the plant introduces a poisonous chemical to the body, an alkaloid, which causes nausea, vomiting, and paralysis of muscles.

In addition to this, some side effects of this plant are paralysis of the even the central nervous system of the person, which may even lead to muscle paralysis, and slow heartbeat. If untreated, the symptoms cause death. 

Poison hemlock is also toxic to the skin, which means that you must avoid touching it at all costs. Its toxic substance is absorbed through the skin to the body to cause these fatal effects.

On another note, remember that this plant remains harmful even three years after it has become dried and death. Which means that if you accidentally get into contact with poison hemlock, seek medical attention immediately. 

2. Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle

Plant Identification
  • Stem, leaves, and leaf veins have stinging hairs
  • Slender and square-branched stems
  • Dark green leaves with tapered ends
Growing Locations
  • Along trails
  • Near streams
  • Old farm sites
  • Skin irritation
  • Itching sensation
  • Blisters 
  • Wash the skin with water and soap
  • Apply aloe vera
  • Use baking soda

The stinging nettle is one of the poisonous plants in Virginia, and it also grows in North Carolina. Although it is not as toxic as poison hemlock, brushing your skin against it causes a burning and itching sensation.

Stinging nettle has stinging hairs on the stem, leaf stalks, and leaf veins. These hairs are strong enough to pass through the fabric and sting your skin. It grows up to eight feet tall, with slender and square branches. The leaves are dark green with a taper at the end, growing on opposite sides of the stem. On the other hand, you will also notice clusters of flowers at the base of the leaves.

The pricking hairs of stinging nettle introduce histamine, serotonin, and formic acid to your body, irritating the skin. You will experience a burning or itching sensation, and the discomfort can last for hours.

Your skin could develop light-colored raised bumps on the affected area, as it will be intoxicating the pores of your skin. You can always use tape to remove any left hairs of stinging nettle, and wash the area with water and soap. Moreover, it is also possible that you can also apply aloe vera, baking soda, or a lotion containing hydrocortisone on the bumps for relief. 

3. Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Plant Identification
  • Three glossy and smooth leaflets
  • Woody stem with wiry roots
  • Small, yellow flowers with white berries
Growing Location
  • Edges of wooded places
  • Areas with good moisture
  • Under partial shade
  • Skin irritation
  • Itching 
  • Blisters 
  • Wash the area with water and soap
  • Apply calamine lotion
  • Avoid scratching

Poison ivy, also known as Toxicodendron radicans in botany, is a common poisonous plant in yards that can be challenging to identify. It has three leaflets like poison oak and poison sumac, but the leaf structures differ. 

Poison ivy is common in moist environments, wooded areas, and paths and grows in areas with partial shade. Identified with the three leaflets, with the middle leaf growing on a separate stem, this rush-inducing plant hides amongst other plants, making it harder to spot. 

The leaves have a glossy and smooth surface, which can be tempting to touch and feel. Young leaves are red, and they change as the plant grows. The flowers are small and yellow, and they produce white berries. 

What happens with this ivy is that it will rub the sap on human skin, leaving an oily substance called urushiol. Urushiol has allergic properties that cause itching. People with more sensitive skin can develop severe symptoms like blistering, however, it can get more severe if the amount touched was further intense.

If you accidentally touch a poison type of ivy leaves, you must evidently wash your skin with water and soap to remove the toxic oil. Although the skin will itch, however, you must avoid scratching the part, as this can lead to blisters that would stay there. Instead, bathe in lukewarm water mixed with colloidal oatmeal preparation, and apply calamine solution. 

If you develop fevers, this is when you must make sure that you visit a doctor for better observation, and for a better treatment. You should also seek medical advice if you swell on most parts of the body and if the itching does not stop. 

4. Lantana Camara

Lantana Camara

Plant Identification
  • Grows into a 6-feet shrub
  • Oval-shaped simple leaves
  • Pink flowers with yellow petals
Growing Locations
  • Tropical climates
  • Cool places
  • Skin irritation
  • Gastrointestinal pain when ingested
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • See a professional doctor
  • Contact your vet

As beautiful as the lantana camara looks on hanging baskets, it is a toxic plant. This deciduous plant grows into a shrub and can grow up to six feet tall, in a beautiful manner. The bright-colored flowers are the main attractive feature of Lantana, as they are pink, with a middle ring and beautiful yellow petals. 

Lantana’s leaves are rough but simple, with an oval shape and scented. However, while the scent can be attractive, touching the leaves will leave you with irritated skin. It also produces some very beautiful flowers that would grow to produce dark blue poisonous berries that none of your pets should ingest, which means you must be careful about this manner, as if can cause issues. 

If you cannot resist Lantana’s beauty, ensure you hang it high to keep kids and pets away. You should also keep the plant away from livestock because it contains triterpene acids lantadene A and B, which can damage their gallbladder and liver. The reason why they are harmful is due to the abundance of these toxins. 

Some effects of ingesting lantana camara are gastrointestinal pain, bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. If your child eats this plant, call a medical professional immediately. Also, contact your vet if your pet ingests the plant. 

5. Lily of The Valley

Lily of The Valley

Plant Identification
  • It looks like wild garlic
  • Leaves have denser veins
  • Bell-shaped clustered flowers
Growing Locations
  • Mountain forests
  • Sandy dry woodlands
  • Under oaks
  • Irregular pulse
  • Death 
  • Seek medical attention immediately

Convallaria majalis, or lily of the valley, can cause severe poisoning if taken in large amounts by children and adults. This plant looks like wild garlic, although there is a difference in the smell and the flowers, although it is one of the most beautiful flowers, but it is very poisonous.

If you are unsure whether you are dealing with lily of the valley or wild garlic, smell the leaves. Wild garlic belongs to the onion family, so the leaves smell like an onion. The structure of the foliage of these two plants is also different.

On the other hand this lily is one that has leaves that are much denser as in terms of their nerves. In addition, their flowers are white, grow in bell-shaped clusters, and bear red berries. 

Small amounts of lily of the valley won’t adversely affect you, but taking too much of this plant can cause irregular and rapid thready pulse, leading to death. If you accidentally ingest the plant, contact a health professional immediately, because it is very poisonous for you as well as for all pets. 

6. Poison Sumac

Poison Sumac

Plant Identification
  • Three compound red leaflets
  • Yellow flowers
  • Small white berries
Growing Locations
  • Swamps
  • Flooded soils
  • Skin rash
  • Skin irritation
  • Burning sensation
  • Wash skin with water and soap
  • Apply calamine lotion

Also called Toxicodendron vernix, poison sumac is a poisonous woody shrub that causes skin irritation like poisonous ivy. On the other hand, the plant mainly grows in wet areas like swamps, and you can also find it in hardwood forests. The leaves are smooth and compound, and they grow in threes. The flowers are small yellow, and they produce white berries. 

Poison sumac has an oily substance on the leaves and stem called urushiol, which causes skin irritation when you touch the plant, because it would grow in common places. Moreover, the plant should also not be burned because inhaling smoke is hazardous

If your skin comes into contact with poison sumac’s urushiol, wash it with soap and water. You should avoid scratching the irritated skin as this can cause blisters. Apply calamine lotion on the affected part to reduce the itching.

7. Poison Oak

Poison Oak

Plant Identification
  • The shrub grows up to three feet tall
  • Leaves are lobbed and have hairs on both sides
  • Leaves are red in fall
Growing Locations
  • In sandy, well-drained soils
  • Along the coast
  • Respiratory effects when you inhale the smoke 
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling and blisters
  • Wash with water and soap
  • Apply calamine lotion
  • Seek medical advice

Poison oak is a poisonous shrub plant that can grow three feet tall. It has three leaflets on the stalk, like the poison variation of ivy, but its leaves are lobed and have hairs on both sides. These leaves turn orange-brown or red in the fall, although they look beautiful, but it is one that is poisonous. 

Poison oak has urushiol that reacts with the skin leaving itchy red rashes, swelling, and blisters. This sap is one that can be transferred to other people when they get into contact with clothes with the oil or pets. In addition to this, even the plant’s smoke can also cause respiratory effects if inhaled, so avoid burning it at all costs. 

If you notice NC poison oak rash, wash the skin with water and soap to remove the oil. You should also clean the clothes to prevent the oil spread and apply calamine lotion on the exposed skin to avoid more irritation.


Intoxicating plants are hard to spot because they look like other plants in the forest. Some essential points you will find in this article are: 

  • Most poisonous types of plants that cause skin irritation, like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, require you to wash the skin with water and soap.
  • Lantana camara is a beautiful landscaping plant that should be kept away from pets and animals.
  • Stinging nettle hairs can pass through the fabric to sting your skin, so be careful.

To keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe, avoid exposing them to unknown plants. You can also wear gloves and protective clothes when gardening to avoid getting into contact with the plant’s sap.





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