How to identify poison ivy

As Summer rolls in, and gardens start to bloom, you may not consider that the stems of those juicy tomatoes could be harmful to your child or pet! Many of the leaves attached to beautiful blooms, fruits, and veggies that grow in your garden may actually be poisonous if ingested. Other seemingly harmless plants may actually cause an allergic reaction or annoying rash if touched. To help you learn how to spot toxic plants in your garden and stay safe as you frolic in nature this season, here are nine tips for poison prevention when gardening this summer!

  1. Young children can choke on berries, stems and leaves. When you plant your garden and buy your indoor plants, make sure you place potentially poisonous or dangerous plants in areas that are out of children’s reach.
  2. Make sure you know the plants you are putting in your garden. Are they toxic? The leaves from three very common plants can be harmful—tomatoes, potatoes and rhubarb.
  3. Do not leave out packs of seeds. Some are poisonous and others may be coated with pesticides that can be potentially harmful to children.
  4. When you spray pesticides on your plants, remember to wash your hands and to protect your children and pets. There is a chemical residue left after you spray.
  5. When you spray your yard or any plant, do so on calm days and always spray downwind away from yourself, others, pets and homes.
  6. If you spray your lawn do not let anyone walk across it until it is dry.
  7. Keep all fertilizers and pesticides in their original containers and out of the reach of children.
  8. Be careful not to spray children’s toys, play gyms, sandboxes or bikes, or pet food dishes.
  9. Wear pants and gloves when working in unfamiliar areas because poison ivy may be hiding there.

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Common Toxic Plants


Raw acorns contain a high level of tannic acid, so they can be toxic to humans when eaten in large quantities. Animals can also find acorns to be irritating to the stomach.

Jimson Weed

Teens can abuse these plants, particularly the seeds for hallucinogenic effects, but can also cause delirium, agitation, and elevated heart rate.


Deadly nightshade is similar to jimsonweed in severity, while common or black nightshade causes GI upset and is more moderate in toxicity.

In the event that you or a loved one may accidentally swallow or come in contact with poisonous plants, immediate medical attention must be sought. Visit the Pittsburgh Poison Center website or Emergency Care at UPMC website to learn more about urgent care in critical situations.

About Poison Center

The Pittsburgh Poison Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide poison information and respond to emergencies. You can call 1-800-222-1222, 24 hours a day, for emergency help. We answer more than 100,000 calls each year from across Pennsylvania, at no cost to callers. Our staff of nurse specialists has extensive training in clinical toxicology. We also created a network of more than 70 hospitals throughout the state for consultation and follow-up treatment of poison exposure. For nearly 50 years, our symbol Mr. Yuk has helped to educate children and adults about poison prevention and poison center awareness. All stickers of Mr. Yuk carry important poison control phone numbers.