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Watch Out For These 5 Poisonous Weeds in Your Garden

Image of couple of farmers seedling and watering sprouts in the garden

As winter turns to spring, people across the U.S. will return to their gardens. About 80% of American households participate in indoor and outdoor gardening activities. Gardening is an excellent activity to get some fresh air, keep your fingers nimble, and even put healthy fruits and vegetables on your table. But in many parts of the country, poisonous weeds can invade your garden. Some of these weeds can cause skin irritation to the touch and others can sicken or kill children or pets who eat them.

Here are five poisonous weeds in your garden to watch out for.

Deadly Nightshade

Deadly nightshade, also known as atropa belladonna, is one of the most poisonous plants in North America. The nightshade plant has been used for over 2,000 years as a poison, anesthetic, and even a hallucinogen.

Deadly nightshade has large oval leaves and greenish bell-shaped flowers. Its berries ripen to a shiny black color. The berries pose the greatest risk to children and animals since they have a slightly sweet taste.

Symptoms of nightshade poisoning include irregular heartbeat, sweating, irregular breathing, and convulsions. If left untreated, nightshade poisoning can cause death.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy can be found in every state in the continental U.S. Over 85% of people experience an allergic reaction to an oil in poison ivy sap. The allergic reaction will irritate skin and produce a severe rash. This rash can sometimes produce blistering.

Poison ivy has clusters of three leaves. The leaves are reddish in the spring and turn green in the summer. The plant has light green flowers and light yellow berries.


Pokeweed can be found mostly in the Eastern part of the U.S., often in fields, pastures, and open woods. The plant can resemble a small, bushy tree with reddish-purple stems, large leaves, and clusters of dark purple berries in the fall. All parts of this plant are toxic to humans and animals, with the roots, leaves, and stems being the most poisonous. Symptoms of pokeweed poisoning include a burning sensation, stomach cramps, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. More severe symptoms can occur if higher amounts are consumed.

Giant Hogweed

One of the most common code violations is weeds taller than 12 inches. But be careful when you go after the tall weeds on your property. If you have giant hogweed, you could experience severe burns from touching the plant’s sap. The sap produces the opposite effect of sunscreen. When it touches the skin, the skin loses its ability to block UV rays.

Giant hogweed is an invasive species that can be found along the east coast of the U.S. as well as Michigan, Illinois, Washington state, and Oregon. Giant hogweed is characterized by large leaves, clusters of white flowers, and a thick, hairy stem.

Jimson Weed

Jimson weed is a member of the nightshade family and grows all over the world. It has large leaves with saw-toothed edges and spiky, prickly seed capsules. The plant’s trumpet-shaped flowers are fragrant and can be either white or purple. All parts of this weed are toxic, especially the seeds. It can cause hallucinations, seizures, nausea and vomiting, loss of consciousness, and even death.

As long as you can avoid these dangerous weeds, gardening can be an enjoyable and healthy activity.

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