Kid's Guide to Poisonous Plants

"Leaves of three, let them be"

Kid's Guide to Poisonous Plants

This may sound like a poem but there is a real warning behind these words. Playing outside can be fun and exciting but you have to be careful or you can get very sick. Not all plants are safe to come into contact with. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, and Stinging Nettles are very common plants that are poisonous to touch. “Leaves of three, let them be” is actually referring what some of these plants usually look like. And, you should never eat any plants that you find outside or even indoor plants. Daffodils, which grow outside, can make you sick if you eat them. Indoor plants that can make you sick if you eat them are Mistletoe, Poinsettias, and Holly Berries. What to know more about poisonous plants? Let’s look at these and other poisonous plants. 

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy can be found in many parts of North America and you may even have seen planted inside. It can grow as a vine or shrub. Typically, it has three leaflets but sometimes it has five leaves so it can be a little confusing for you to identify it. Ivy leaves are smooth with notched edges. Ivy is dangerous to almost everyone, especially for kids because they might not realize that it is poisonous. It is important that you don't come into contact with this plant, but if you do, you should wash with soap and water immediately. The reaction can appear within hours or up to five days later. The infected area with turn reddish and itchy. Make sure that you never itch this rash. It will only make it itchier and more painful. Some blisters may appear. Other symptoms include breathing difficulty, pain in the stomach, extreme thirst, vomiting, fever, diarrhea or even coma.

  • Leaves of Three: The article from Kid's Health offers information on looking out for poisonous plants, allergic reactions, checking with doctor, and treating rashes from poisonous plants.

  • Poison Ivy/Poison Oak: The informational fact sheet by the Children’s Hospital Boston provides answers to such questions as “What is poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac?”, “What causes an allergic reaction?”, “What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac?”, “Treatment for poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac”, “Is poison ivy and poison oak contagious?” and “Preventing poison ivy and poison oak”. 

  • Poison Ivy/Poison Oak/Poison Sumac: The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center provides an informational fact sheet which covers causes, symptoms, treatment, spread, and prevention of these poisonous plants.

  • Poison Ivy: The article has a picture of a poison ivy vine and detailed description of the western and eastern species as well as where the species can be found.

  • Information: The symptom checker offers information on symptoms, when to call the doctor, and care at home.

Poison Oak

Usually located west of the Rockies, poison oak is a small bush as well as a climbing vine. If you have seen the leaves, you will notice the smooth edge. You should also know that oak has three leaflets with a reddish stem. The plant is clustered in groups of three, five or seven. You most likely would come across a poison oak when you are outside. If you are come into contact with poison oak, rashes may appear and you will feel itchy. Remember, don't itch it. Sometimes, the rash appears in lines where the plant has touched the skin. Normally, the symptoms would appear within 12 to 48 hours but it could take up to a week. It’s followed with blisters that get crusty in a few days.

  • Poison Oak Profile: The fact sheet provides a profile of poison oak including where it is located and its species.

  • Poison Oak, Ivy, and Sumac: Dr. Greene answers these questions: “What is poison ivy, oak, and sumac?”, “Who gets poison ivy, oak, and sumac?”, “What are the symptoms of poison ivy, oak, and sumac?”, and “Is poison ivy, oak, and sumac contagious?”

  • Treatment: The informational fact sheet from Medline Plus offers information about the symptoms and treatment of poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac.

  • Fact Sheet: The PDF presents facts on poison oak such as a complete description and its impacts and control options.

Poison Sumac

This poisonous plant grows in wet areas. The leaves of sumac are smooth and oval-shaped. On each stem, you will see seven to thirteen leaves. The sumac can be a shrub or a small tree and it may grow as tall as 20 feet. It has greenish flowers and grey fruits. Poison sumac is one of the most toxic plants in the world, so it’s more dangerous than poison ivy or poison oak. If infected, you may experience painful swellings. There may be other symptoms like inflammation, oozing, itching, and even a burning sensation.

  • Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac: The article from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia offers information on the treatment and prevention of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

  • Should Your Child See a Doctor?: The fact sheet from the Seattle Children's Hospital provides information on “When to call your doctor for poison ivy, oak, sumac?”, and “Home care for mild poison oak or ivy”.

  • Treatment & Prevention: The PDF from Nationwide Children's Hospital provides information on the symptoms, treatment, and prevention on poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

  • First Aid Guide: The guide provides information on where poison ivy, oak, and sumac are found, their appearance, symptoms, treatment, and when to seek medical attention.


You may or may not have seen Mommy kissing Santa under the mistletoe but you should know that when you do see it, it’s a poisonous plant. Unlike the other plants that have been discussed, this plant is only toxic if you eat it. Mistletoe has smooth edged oval-like green leaves. The leaves of the plant grow in pairs and it bears waxy white berries. Eating mistletoe can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, blurred vision, and nausea. Due to its attractive appearance, mistletoe is a popular festive plant which can be seen in many homes during the Holiday season. You don't have to throw it away, but just make sure that no one tries to eat it, including younger siblings and pets.

  • Mistletoe: The article provides a fun and interesting overview of mistletoe as a holiday tradition.

  • Poisoning: The fact sheet offers information on symptoms, treatment, and other information on mistletoe poisoning.

  • Mistletoe Poison: The article explains the dangers posed by mistletoe and other poisonous plants.

  • Poisonous Plants: The doctor column answers the question about whether such plants like mistletoe, holly berries, and poinsettias are poisonous to children and pets.

Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles can be found all around the world. Based on its name alone, you should guess that it’s a dangerous plant. It’s never fun to be stung, right? Stinging nettles grow in disturbed soils, roadsides, and garden borders. It can grow up to six feet and the leaves can be one to five inches long. In the summer, the plant reaches its maximum height. Stinging nettles usually grow in clusters. The plant produces a sting because it has bristly hairs covering its leaves and stems. Even though it’s quite different from ivy or oak in appearance, it causes the same symptoms: a painful and itchy rash. You should not itch this rash either.

  • Stinging Nettles: The fact sheet provides an overview of the plant with description, treatment, uses, and more.

  • Stinging Nettles Facts: The informational fact sheet presents a general profile of stinging nettles.

  • Poisonous Plants: The article from Kidz World provides useful information on poisonous plants like poison ivy, deadly nightshade, and stinging nettles.

  • Look but Don’t Touch: The article from the West Virginia Wildlife Magazine highlights the dangers of some poisonous plants with a good section on stinging nettles.


Have you read William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”? It’s a bright, jolly poem about the beauty of daffodils. If you have seen daffodils in full bloom, you may would understand Wordsworth’s joy. “The thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.” Blossoming in spring, the daffodil has very beautiful flowers of yellow or white, accentuated with red trims. Though it’s very lovely to look at, and certainly tempting enough to be eaten, the berries, leaves, roots, and stems contain poisonous compounds. The highest concentration is at the bulbs or swollen underground stems. If eaten, daffodils can cause diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, and abdominal pain. It may lead to convulsions or possibly death.

  • FAQs: The American Daffodil Society offers answers to some common questions on daffodils like “How many kinds of daffodils are there?”, “How do daffodils multiply?”, and more.

  • The Poison Plant Patch - Daffodil: This article provides information on the poisonous properties and symptoms of daffodils.

  • Daffodil, Narcissus: An account of how a handsome Greek guy by the name of Narcissus loved his own reflection so much that he died and became “the flower of death” which is the daffodil.

  • Is it Toxic?: The FAQ provides answers on the health effects and treatment of daffodil poisoning.