Poisonous Plants Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Plants are all around us, and we use many of them for food or decoration in our gardens! There are some plants, however, that are poisonous to humans and animals. Learn about different poisonous plants and their dangerous effects.

Why Are Some Plants Poisonous?

In the wild, animals have ways to defend themselves against predators, or enemies who might want to eat them for lunch! Plants cannot defend themselves as easily because they cannot move. Some plants have thorns, spikes or other outward ways to ward off predators. However, many plants use the internal, or inside, defense of poison.

Poison Ivy and Poison Oak

You are probably familiar with two very common poisonous plants, poison ivy and poison oak. These plants are found in all types of environments, but mainly in wooded areas with shade. People who come into contact with these plants will often get itchy rashes on their skin. This rash can be spread to others through contact with the infected skin, or it can be spread if the poison from the leaves sticks to your clothes.

Poison ivy is famous for having three distinctive leaves.
Poison ivy

Sumac

This plant is found all over the world. This plant is similar to poison oak and poison ivy. If you come into contact with the poisonous variety of sumac, it can cause an itchy rash and skin blisters. Just like poison oak and ivy, the poisonous aspect of the plant can stick to clothing and can spread this way or through human contact. Some types of this plant are not poisonous but it is a good idea to steer clear of all varieties!

Oleander

Oleander is a plant with beautiful flowers, so it may be hard to believe that this plant is poisonous! However, all parts of this plant are extremely toxic, or poisonous. In particular, the leaves and stems are very dangerous. This plant can cause stomach cramping and skin problems. So while it is beautiful, be very careful of its effects!

The oleander plant has beautiful flowers but it can be very dangerous.
Oleander flowers

Hemlock

Hemlock is a plant that can be found on many different continents, including North America. All parts of this plant are poisonous and if ingested, or eaten, it can be deadly! The hemlock plant has flowers, and they are much more dangerous than the rest of the hemlock tree.

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