While there are many safe and delicious wild trail snacks, a handful of plants shouldn’t be on the menu on your outdoor travels.

Whenever you are tempted to snack on or touch a plant, make sure you know what it is and that it is safe. Here are 10 common trail plants that are not safe to eat.

 

Anemones

photoSylvia Dekker

These pretty, perfect white flowers morph into fluffy Dr. Seuss-like seed heads! At first glance, they seem harmless—and they are—as long as they don’t end up in your mouth. Some people’s skin reacts from touching the hairs on the plant as well, another great reason to leave the wildflowers where they bloom.

 

Buttercups

photoSylvia Dekker

The name buttercup encompasses several different types of shiny yellow flowering plants. In general, the entire plant of this pretty, cheerful family is toxic to humans when eaten.

 

Poison Hemlock

photoFlickr cc by 2.0 Paige Filler

One of the more well-known poisonous plants, poison hemlock is a large, impressive parsley-leafed, invasive plant that looks similar to Queen Anne’s Lace but contains alkaloids that are highly poisonous. It’s recommended to not touch the plant, let alone taste or consume it.

 

Lupines

photoSylvia Dekker

Lupines coat the hillsides with their royal blue and purple beauty and produce pods that look like peas, but they can be quite toxic and should be avoided when you are looking for something to snack on.

 

Larkspur

photoSylvia Dekker

The deep purple and blue flowers of the Larkspur are attractive, but not in a mouth-watering way. A small amount of this plant is toxic to humans and dogs, so keep an eye on your fluffy companion.

 

Columbine

photoSylvia Dekker

Columbine is another example of a look don’t-touch-or-snack-on wildflowers that produces bright, intricate flowers. Eating a lot of this plant can produce some heart palpitating side effects that are short-lived and not worth chewing on.

 

Death Camas

photoSylvia Dekker

Only two plants on this list give away their poisonous nature in their name and of the two, the Death Camas sounds the most morbid. These onion-like plants are considered dangerous. They can be mistaken for wild onions, so if you are collecting onions, the best way to tell the difference is: if it smells like an onion, it’s an onion.

 

False Hellebore

photoSylvia Dekker

Eating the lush, vibrant green leaves of the False Hellebore can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms from the stomach to the lungs so it is best left alone. False Hellebore are often mistaken for wild leeks (ramps), which are edible, but wild leeks smell like onions so give them a sniff before collecting and eating!

 

Snowberry

photoSylvia Dekker

This plump white berry might look like a good snack, but only for grouse and quails. Considered mildly toxic to humans, snowberries contain alkaloids which can cause dizziness, vomiting and—if large quantities are consumed—slight sedation. Not a fun way to end your hike.

 

Euphorbia

photoSylvia Dekker

Try not to crush this plant on your travels. If you accidentally touch it, avoid touching your eyes after. The milky sap of the Euphorbia can cause your skin to become photosensitive, reacting to the sun with blistering and inflammation.

  

It is good to know which plants are edible and which are poisonous if you are interested in wild snacks. In general, when in doubt, simply admire and hike on.

 

PS. Want to know what you can eat?

Purchase Edible Wild Plants for a guide to snacking outside in North America!

 

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