Colorado Survival Guide: Colorado toxic plants you should avoid

Posted at 1:42 PM, May 23, 2017

DENVER – As you venture out and explore our great state this summer, be mindful of plants that may not be so welcoming of your presence.

Colorado is home to several species of toxic plants, some of which appear very benign. The symptoms from exposure range from a mild itch to severe discomfort.

Here are some common poisonous plants you may encounter in Colorado. 

African Rue
a bright green, succulent, shrubby, perennial herb that grows 1-2 feet tall with a tap root and lateral root system that can extend 20 feet or more into the soil. African rue contains at least four toxic alkaloids and is allelopathic. It is extremely poisonous to cattle, sheep, horses, and humans.

Death Camas
Hairless, perennials, with linear, grass-like, v-shaped, parallel-veined leaves arising basally from an onion-like bulb. The leaves are not hollow like those of onions, and do smell like onion. The bulb is often confused with edible wild onions. The symptoms of poisoning include a slowed heart rate and diarrhea.

Myrtle Spurge
A low growing perennial with trailing fleshy stems. The leaves are fleshy, blue-green and alternate. Flowers are inconspicuous with yellow-green, petal-like bracts that appear from March to May. Myrtle spurge contains a toxic, milky sap which can cause severe skin irritations, including blistering. This plant is poisonous if ingested; causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Poison Ivy / Poison Oak
The leaves and stems contain an irritant oil called urushiol that is released from the crushed or broken surface of the leaves or stems. Irritation can follow any contact with either plant. 

Red Baneberry
Vascular plant without significant woody tissue above or at the ground. All parts of this bitter-tasting plant are poisonous. If you accidently consume these berries, expect to feel nauseous and dizzy. You'll also experience an increased pulse and severe gastrointestinal discomfort

Red Elderberry
Red elderberry is a large deciduous shrub or small tree of the Honeysuckle family that grows 10-20 ft tall with a broad arching form. Older specimens have large, multiple trunks with coarse bark. Red elderberry begins growth early in spring and produces abundant, small, creamy white flowers in large, conical or pyramidal shaped clusters between April and July. Red elderberry fruit may be toxic when taken internally without sufficient preparation. 

Information courtesy of Colorado State University, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.