Anyone who's suffered the effects of poison oak or poison ivy knows well enough that they don't want to experience it again. It's not always easy to avoid, though, as most poisonous plants are difficult to identify. Additionally, if you have children running around a campground, they certainly aren't worried about rubbing up against the wrong bush.
The two poisonous plants that get the most recognition are oak and ivy. While the "leaves-of-three, let-it-be" philosophy is a good one to follow, you can still be fooled, or even miss it all together.
Anna Bennet, a biologist at Recon Environmental Consulting Firm in San Diego, says poison oak is poisonous in all its forms—from the roots to the berries.
"Late in the season, when there are no leaves on the plant, the stems are still poisonous," says Bennett.
And even when there are leaves, they aren't always that reddish color that people associate with poison oak. They don't actually turn that color until the fall.
So how can you protect you and your family against poisonous plants? Here are some basic guidelines to follow when venturing out into the wilderness.
Carry a Field Guide
Turn your hikes into educational opportunities for you and your family. Identifying plants is a great way to entertain kids and get them excited about, and aware of, the natural world.
Wear the Right Clothes
Long pants and proper hiking shoes or boots are best. If you're wearing shorts, and suspect that you're walking through a questionable area, pull your socks up as high as you can.