Poisonous plants in Virginia can pose risks if you stumble across them, whether they are in green yards, or beautifully growing around, they are a huge risk to be near to.

7 Poisonous Plants in Virginia

Some, like poison ivy, cause skin irritation, while others cause more adverse effects like blindness. So, which are these plants, and how do you identify them?

How long do the effects last? And are they treatable? Get to learn everything here. 

Different Poisonous Plants in Virginia You Should Know

1. Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed

  • Huge leaves that are deeply lobed
  • White flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters
  • Stems have purple splotches
Growing Locations
  • Trails
  • Roadsides
  • Areas with rich, moist soil
  • Painful blisters
  • Permanent scars
  • Death and blindness
Treat the Effects
  • Cover the skin from direct sunlight
  • Wash skin with water and soap
  • Visit a physician

Giant hogweed is considered the most poisonous plants in Virginia. It is a perennial plant with a hollow rigid stem, purple blotches, and hairs. It grows up to 14 feet tall and has deeply lobed leaves—this plant blooms in summer, producing beautiful white flowers that form a large, flat-topped umbrella. 

In order to know that this is a giant hogweed Virginia, remember that it is prone to grow mainly in rich, moist soils, trails, and roadsides, which means near some wetlands, and marshy places. Although the entire plant is toxic, its sap is more concentrated on the lower parts of the hollow stems, hairs, leaves, flowers, and seeds, which means that ingesting or coming close than any part is definitely not safe. 

When your skin comes into contact with the posison that is in the sap of the plant, it causes Phyto photodermatitis. The fluid reduces your skin’s ability to protect itself from ultraviolet rays, causing sunburns that would vary in the intensity. As a result, these lead to severe inflammation, which can occur 15 minutes after having any contact. 

The effects start with painful blisters forming in the affected part of the skin. These blisters can leave permanent scars lasting up to six years, and the affected area becomes sensitive to sunlight. However, it may get even worse, as this plant would also cause blindness if the sap enters the eyes, as it would burn the eyes and then the damage will be severe. It is also one of Maryland poisonous plants

If you recognize the plant in the field, do not touch it with your hands. Avoid touching clothes that got into contact with giant hogweed, and remember that you must wash them immediately. 

If the sap gets into contact with your skin, wash the part with water and soap, as soon as you can and as thoroughly as you would. You should also protect the exposed part from sun rays by covering it. Do not use a weed whacker when removing the plant, as the sap can splash on your skin. 

2. Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

  • Compound leaves with three leaflets
  • Leaves have a glossy surface
  • Leaves have smooth edges and are orange in fall and green in summer
  • Green flowers and white-yellow berries
Growing Locations
  • Near fences and walls
  • Sunny and shaded areas
  • Forests 
  • Skin rash
  • Blisters
  • Swelling 
How to treat the effects
  • Thoroughly washing
  • Treat rash with calamine lotion

Poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, or the rush-inducing plant can be challenging to identify. First, it looks like other naturally growing plants in the forest and has look-alike relatives like poison oak and even like the poison sumac.

This poisonous plant is one that has three leaves with a glossy surface and smooth or toothed edges. They are red in spring and turn green in summer, then yellow or orange in fall. You may also identify this toxic plant with its greenish-white flowers that grow to produce whitish-yellow berries. 

Poison ivy contains an oil called urushiol that causes a rash on human skin. The inflammation can advance to blisters and swelling, with some people suffering other severe symptoms. The blisters will ooze and dry after two to three weeks and start healing, which means that it has to do with the intensity of the damage. This is why this plant is one of the poisonous plants in Washington state as well, because it is one of those plants that is prone to spread in a wile way across the states .

When you come into contact with this toxic ivy, you must wash the affected part of the skin with water and soap as soon as you can, because you don’t want to be intoxicated. Moreover, you can also bathe in water mixed with colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to calm it down, of course this is a home remedy. If your skin is itching, you can even try to apply calamine lotion to reduce the irritation.

Some people will suffer fevers from the effects of the ivy, in addition, you must also note that if it gets worse, visit a doctor for advice. You should also see a physician as your skin looks infected or if the rash spreads to most parts of the body, including the genital areas. 

3. Poison Sumac

Poison Sumac

  • Woody shrub small tree growing up to 20 feet tall
  • It has three leaflets without a glossy surface
  • Produce yellow flowers and white-green berries
Growing Location
  • Swamps
  • Wet soils
  • Skin rash
  • Skin inflammation
  • Respiratory problems when inhaled
Treating the Effects
  • Wash skin with water and soap
  • See the doctor if you have inhaled the smoke

A poisonous plant is quietly spreading across the country and resembles a poisonous variety of the ivy. Although it is still rare but fast-growing, poison sumac should be avoided. It is a woody shrub-like small tree that grows up to 20 feet tall. You will mostly find poisonous sumac in flooded soils and very wet areas like near swamps.

This plant has three leaflets, like poison ivy. However, poison sumac’s leaves differ in shape and lack a glossy surface. They are orange in spring and turn red in fall. The plant produces beautiful yellowish-green flowers and white-green little berries that may not always be poisonous. 

This toxic sumac contains a dangerous oil called urushiol and when it comes out it is prone to causes skin inflammation and rash. The plant can also cause respiratory problems if inhaled, so do not burn its leaves or stem when eradicating it from your yard. 

If you get into contact with poison sumac, wash the skin with lukewarm water and soap. You must make sure that you would also wash between the fingers, fingernails, and clothes to avoid spreading the oil to other people or parts of your body. 

4. Poison Oak

Poison Oak

  • Grows in vine or shrub
  • Leaves have three leaflets with smooth surfaces and lobbed 
  • Leaves have hairs
Growing Locations
  • Wooded areas
  • Grasslands
  • Coastal shrubs
  • Irritated and itchy skin
  • Sensitive skin to sunlight
  • Skin rash
Treating the Effects
  • Wash the area with water and soap
  • Treat blisters with calamine lotion

Poison oak Virginia won’t do your skin good. The plant contains urushiol, which causes skin irritation, blisters, and rash. However, although you want to avoid this plant at all costs, identifying it can be challenging, in addition, all of the parts of this plant is poisonous and intoxicating. 

First, poison oak is easily confused with poison ivy and poison sumac because they all have three leaflets. But poison oak’s leaflets are duller green than poison ivy’s and are more lobbed. The leaves also have hairs on both sides, unlike the ivy that is poisonous. 

This poisonous plant grows to form a three-feet tall shrub, but it sometimes appears like a vine. It produces fruits that resemble pearls but with a tan color, and this is a way that you can identify it. At the same time, the leaves are red in fall and change colors with the seasons. 

When you get into contact with poison oak, the symptoms can take up to 48 hours to show. The way that it would intoxicate is through urushiol, the toxic oil in this plant, forms a chemical bond with your skin, causing an allergic reaction. The skin becomes sensitive, irritated, and itchy and develops a rash, of course the more you get close the more it is poisonous. 

The skin rash is not contagious, but this toxic sap can be transferred to another person if it remains in your clothes or hands. Ensure you clean the clothes and wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap, as soon as you have the chance. You should also clean the exposed skin to urushiol with water and soap, so that the effect doesn’t get as severe. 

When getting rid of this plant from your garden, avoid burning it. Its smoke is dangerous to your respiratory system. You can treat the blisters and itch using calamine lotion, aloe vera, or baking soda. 

5. Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper

  • Compound leaves with five leaflets
  • Leaves have a dull-green surface
  • Bright purple foliage in fall
Growing Location
  • Along woodlands
  • Rocky bluffs
  • Fence rows
  • Skin irritation
  • Skin rash and burns
Treating the Effects
  • Wash the skin with water and soap
  • Use hydrocortisone to treat the rash

Virginia creepers, one of drought tolerant and vigorous growers, cause skin irritation to people with sensitive skin. However, it does not contain urushiols, the sap that most toxic plants would contain. 

Virginia creeper is closely confused with poison ivy because of its leaflets, although it has five instead of three. The leaves have saw-toothed margins, and they turn red in fall. The plant is a vine variety and can climb up to 30 feet or higher. 

Although some homeowners admire the creeper, its tendrils adhere to surfaces and can damage painted walls and bricks, this is because of the trialing property that it has, which enhances the mood of the house. However, this toxic plant covers the ground to provide erosion control on slopes.

Virginia creeper grows to produce dark blue berries containing oxalic acid, a toxic substance to human beings. However, birds can freely enjoy berries, because they won’t be hurt in any way. Moreover, remember that touching this plant can cause skin rash and burns, so use gloves or avoid them. 

On another note, you must remember to wash your exposed skin thoroughly with water and soap to lower the chances of irritation. You can use hydrocortisone or calamine lotion to treat the rash or soak in an oatmeal bath for about 15 to 20 minutes, so that it would calm the intensity down. 

6. Poison Hemlock

Poison Hemlock

  • Reddish or purple spots and streaks on stems
  • Leaves with musty odor when crushed
  • White flowers with umbrella shape
Plant look-alike
  • Carrots
  • Fennel
  • Parsnip
  • Ferns
  • Dilates pupils
  • Paralyze muscles
  • Suffocation
  • Death
Treating the Effects
  • See a doctor
  • Visit a vet if your livestock ingests it

Poison hemlock, Conium maculatam, is a toxic plant in the carrot family. Fern lovers would easily confuse it for a beautiful fern plant because of the bright green fern-like leaves. However, small ingestion of this plant can cause death to humans, pets, and wildlife. 

Poison hemlock has reddish or purple spotted hollow stems. Its fern-like leaves are finely divided and have toothed edges. The leaves also contain an odor when crushed, and this is the sap of the plant, which would cause nausea, vomiting, and even high blood pressure would rise, however, this is when the quantity that you are in contact with is little. 

Also remember that the plant blooms into tiny, white flowers that form an umbrella-shaped top. It grows to maturity of up to 10 feet tall, and every flower cluster has a purple flower at the center. 

Water hemlock Virginia stalks and leaves remain toxic even three years after death. If the plant’s toxins get absorbed into human skin, the symptoms are dilation of the pupils, dizziness, and a slow heartbeat. The toxins can paralyze the muscles, including the diaphragm muscles leading to suffocation. 

7. Pokeweed


  • Grows up to 10 feet tall
  • Large leaves
  • Smooth purplish stem
  • Purple-black berries
  • Treats mastitis
  • Treat skin infection
  • Alleviate muscle and joint pain
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Skin rash
Treating the Effects
  • Apply calamine lotion to the rash
  • See a doctor

Although you should avoid toxic plants at all costs, some have health benefits. Pokeweed is one of the poisonous plants in Virginia, but its berries, roots, and leaves have medicinal uses. However, do not ingest these parts directly. 

Taking tea made from the roots or leaves of pokeweed causes poisoning to human beings. The berries are also unsafe. The side effects of consuming this weed can be signs like nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea, you will also experience low blood pressure and thirst, as your mouth will start to get dry. 

Besides pokeweed being a poisonous plant, it can treat skin infections, mastitis, and achy muscles and joints. However, you should only use it if directed by a physician, and if your pet is the one that ingested it, you must quickly take it to the vet. In order to avoid all types of risks to be taken to your pet, you must keep them away from this toxic plant as far as you can.  


Poisonous plants in Virginia cause adverse effects like skin rash, irritation, and others cause death. Some of these plants, like poison hemlock, resemble harmless plants like carrots and ferns, making it harder to identify them. Some important points to note from this article are;

  • Poisonous plants can have different effects on the human body, with some causing death.
  • Plants like giant hogweed and poisonous hemlock can also affect livestock when ingested.
  • Avoid burning the poisonous plants when eradicating them from your yard, as the smoke can cause respiratory problems.

Once you know the effects these plants can cause on your skin or body, ensure you avoid them completely. Now that you know them, you can surely avoid them.





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