Prepare for summer hiking by recognizing these dangerous Bay Area plants

Californians are often characterized by their love of outdoor recreation. But before you set out for your next hiking adventure this summer, take a few minutes to brush up on the basics of the Bay Area’s poisonous plants. Taking precautions to avoid poisonous vegetation can help you stay out of the Emergency Room at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose.

Poison ivy

Poison ivy is one of the most widely known poisonous plants that cause contact dermatitis . Poison ivy is more common in the eastern states, but Bay Area hikers can still encounter it from time to time. Stay away from plants with the following characteristics:

  • Typically has three spoon-shaped leaves
  • Grows as climbing vine or spreads on the ground
  • Often found along ocean beaches

Poison oak

Poison oak is particularly common in western states. Its leaves look like oak leaves, but the plant grows as a shrub or a vine. The plant typically features three leaflets but can feature up to seven.

Poison hemlock

Poison hemlock isn’t related to hemlock trees, but it does look quite similar to Queen Anne’s lace. The foliage of poison hemlock also looks similar to carrot tops. There are ways of identifying the subtle differences.

Check the stalks. Poison hemlock has smooth stalks with purplish discolorations. Queen Anne’s lace has green stalks that look somewhat fuzzy.

Check the height. Queen Anne’s lace generally doesn’t grow taller than three feet or so, but poison hemlock can reach three to 10 feet in height.


Oleander features vibrant, beautiful blooms, but it can be fatal if ingested. Oleander is a shrub with dense foliage and clusters of flowers in pink, yellow, red or white shades.

If you do develop a serious skin reaction this summer, the emergency care physicians at Good Samaritan Hospital can provide effective care around the clock. Our hospital in San Jose is committed to maintaining the highest standards of patient care because our emergency care doctors live and work in the same community as our patients. Call a registered nurse at (888) 724-2362 for general hospital information.

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