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Look But Do Not Touch

Updated on October 27, 2010


A non-poisonous black racer snake.
A non-poisonous black racer snake.

In North America, there are several plants and animals that are interesting to spot, but should not be touched. This page showcases a few common things in nature that novice hikers and explorers should respect.

Poisonous Plants and Fungi

A wild mushroom.
A wild mushroom.

Poisonous Plants - Mushrooms

Across North America, thousands of plants, mushrooms and other fungi contain poisons and other harmful compounds. Although many of these organisms are beautiful to see and photograph, nature lovers should be careful about touching or ingesting wild plants, mushrooms or other items. A single bite of some plants or mushrooms can be lethal!

Leaves of 3 - Let It Be: Poison Ivy

Poison ivy in Spring.
Poison ivy in Spring.

In many areas of North America, poison ivy grows on the forest floor or creeps up trees as a vine. Although these plants are beautiful to look at, the addage, "leaves of 3, let it be" is worth heeding.

The leaves of poison ivy are protected by a special oil. Even small amounts of this substance can cause painful rashes, itching and allergic reactions in humans. Poison ivy rashes can occur not only thru direct contact, but also when the oil is spread by second hand contact.

For example if a pet rubs against poison ivy, and is then touched by a human, the oil can still cause problems. Poison ivy can also affect humans if the leaves are exposed to fire or other sources of heat.

Hikers, fishermen, birdwatchers and other outdoor enthusiasts should learn to recognize this plant and avoid touching it.

Poison Ivy in Fall

Poison ivy in Fall. Beautiful, but dangerous.
Poison ivy in Fall. Beautiful, but dangerous.


A channel catfish from a tidal creek.
A channel catfish from a tidal creek.

Are Catfish Poisonous?

North America is home to dozens of species of catfish, ranging from tiny madtoms to monster blue catfish.

According to Science Daily, a study published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology by Jeremy Wright of the University of Michigan, offers insight concerning the presence of venom glands in catfish.

During the study the scientist found that at least 1250, and possibly over 1600 species of catfish may be venomous.

The research found that catfish venom glands are sometimes present on spines of the dorsal and pectoral fins, which can be locked into place when the catfish is threatened.

According to the study, a catfish spine puncture can cause severe pain, ischemia, muscle spasm and respiratory distress.

What Are You Afraid Of Touching?

What are you most afraid of touching when in the wild?

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    • LindaJM profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 

      8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I've got lots of photos of poison oak, but never saw poison ivy before!


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