Photo by James Whitney

The state of Virginia is abundant in various plants that are worth knowing. Unfortunately, not every one of them is friendly, so here are some of the poisonous plants in Virginia that you should avoid.

Poisonous plants in Virginia are among the approximately 3,000 species that thrive in the state. Consuming and touching them is another matter because it can take a turn for the worse. If you’re a forager, you may have learned a few plants worth evading.

The Master Naturalists of Virginia collaborated with the University of Virginia in producing a free booklet that is helpful for everyone who wants to go hiking or any nature adventure. It didn’t help back in the pandemic; people were searching for edible plants, which heightened the need for poison control.

Throughout our planet’s existence, we have studied things of the past – from early civilizations to cultures, animals, and people. Among those prehistoric studies include plants, which broadens our understanding of the planet we live on.

Thomas Mcloughlin’s book about fossil plants

At some point, natural evolution has caused many biological and ecological changes affecting our lives, including plants. That’s why it’s essential to study the history of fossil plants, which led to the species that have been growing worldwide.

With the need to acknowledge the relevance of fossil plants, Thomas Mcloughlin wrote a book about Fossil Plants of Southwest Virginia. ‘A Guide to Pennsylvanian (Carboniferous) Age Plant Fossils of Southwest Virginia‘ is an excellent guide for every reader to expand their knowledge of plants that came before.

Awareness about specific types of poisonous plants in Virginia is good to have. After all, studying fossil plants in the state can give us an idea about their ecology. That said, let’s check out the poisonous plants to steer clear from.

Poisonous Plants to look out for in Virginia

People often think that when something is poisonous, it can ‘instantly kill you.’ However, let’s dispel that notion for now. By identifying poisonous plants in Virginia, we can understand better which plants you should avoid and be on your way.

Poison Ivy

This goes without saying – the name of the plant itself is self-explanatory and universally known to be dangerous worldwide. However, these three-leaf plants are also among the poisonous plants in Virginia that grow among the state’s Creeper species. Poison Ivy can grow as a shrub, a small plant, or a vine.

So what happens when you touch this plant?

People experience different allergic reactions upon being in contact with Poison Ivy. Sometimes, it can result in blisters or hives after a few minutes of rubbing the leaf. The rash can get worse, though, the more you touch the plant, and that’s not the worst part – the effects can also spread to other surfaces like phones or furniture.

Virginia Creeper

Commonly found in Virginia, this hazardous plant is widespread throughout the state. It’s also known as the Victoria creeper, five-finger, woodbine, and five-leaved Ivy. The Virginia Creeper also multiplies, reaching up to 100 feet.

Now this is where you should be careful: Virginia Creepers’ sap in the stem and leaves contains a lethal amount of raphides. This toxic substance can cause rashes and several allergic reactions. The effects may be less, but picking the leaves is not advised. And if you’re out walking your dog, you shouldn’t let them consume Virginia Creepers.


Among the poisonous plants in Virginia, the Pokeweed is a lethal plant that shouldn’t be consumed at all costs. It is even considered a pest by several farmers and an invasive species due to its speedy growth. Despite the Pokeweed’s incredible beauty, don’t be fooled. Every part of this plant is dangerous, especially the roots, leaves, and fruits, where the highest toxin concentration lies.

Consuming the Pokeweed in small amounts may not be the end, but you still need to be hospitalized when the effects surface. However, we strongly advise never to let it be consumed by children, especially since they’re the type to be easily attracted to the Pokeweed’s colorful fruit.

The effects of ingesting Pokeweed can be bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. They usually take effect within a few hours of consumption. Hence immediate medical intervention is necessary to avoid further complications.

Notable mentions of other poisonous plants in Virginia

Poison Oak– Its leaves resemble the Poison Ivy and have similar effects. It’s found in thick woods and forests in Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas. The Poison Oak contains urushiol, which causes rashes that will get worse over time. However, its severity doesn’t apply to all, as some are luckily immune to its effects.

Giant Hogweed – It is a large and invasive plant across Eurasia and North America. It is a fascinating ornamental plant that produces white flowers in the summer. Giant Hogweeds contain toxic chemicals that cause a skin disease called phytophotodermatitis which can last a few days.

Poison Hemlock– Also an invasive, dangerous plant, the Poison Hemlock is a carrot family member. It also looks similar to the Giant Hogweed, with white flowers that grow in clusters. Touching and consuming it is dangerous and can poison both humans and animals. Symptoms include vomiting, fever, trembling, and rapid respiration.

Final Caution

Remember what they say when you see something bright and colorful in any natural habitat? It’s most likely the opposite of harmless, which also applies to animals (e.g., poisonous frogs). So if you’re outdoors most of the time, it helps to brush up on your knowledge of which plants to avoid, which are rampant in Virginia.