What are the most common plants that can cause rashes when touched in North America? What are the most important ones to be aware of and avoid?

Before coming to the US I was only familiar with the nettle. I've heard about poison ivy, but I had no idea what it looked like, how common it was, or how bad a sting could be. Since then I learned to identify poison ivy and poison sumac and avoided them, but I got stung by something which was neither of the two (the severity of the sting was comparable to the nettle).

So, from a practical point of view, which stinging plants should one be aware of when hiking in North America?

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    In Southern California, a really nasty one is poodle-dog bush: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eriodictyon_parryi
    – user2169
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 2:57
  • @BenCrowell - Yikes that stuff sounds awful. It sounds like it's especially difficult to remove from skin and clothes as well. I'm possibly moving to CA soon, so that's good to know.
    – montane
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 2:47

1 Answer 1


This is what I've found in the wonderful world of the internets: http://www.buildablock.com/blog/poisonous-plants-to-avoid-in-north-america

Personal experience living in the USA for 22 years says that there are more issues with thorn bushes than with stinging nettles. Most poisonous plants I've run into are low to the ground. If you wear pants (and are not extremely sensitive), you're almost always fine.

Also, on a side note: most hiking trails are poison-ivy free, as long as you stay on the trail and don't wander off. Unless you particularly enjoy brushing your ankles along the greenery, the hiking trails should keep you pretty safe.

  • Thanks for the link. It seems that only the first three in the list (poison ivy, poison sumac & poison oak) are plants causing skin irritation. The rest that the article mentions are poisonous only when ingested.
    – Umi
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 14:27
  • I've found that most of the unpleasant stinging nettles and plants are found outside of the USA, quite thankfully. Those three are really the only big ones we have here (with the exception of those that eccentric gardeners might illegally grow).
    – pheidlauf
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 14:31
  • Hi pheidlauf! This is an interesting answer. I'm unable to access your link. I'm getting a message which includes 403 Forbidden, Access denied. Would you mind taking a look at it when you have time? That would be great. Thanks! Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 21:57
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    @pheidlauf We have plenty of stinging nettles in the USA, at least here in New York. I have some in my own backyard that keeps taking over certain areas because I have not dealt with it thoroughly enough. When I mow the yard, sometimes I get stinging, painful rashes from them.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 17:30

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