Dangerous Plants

Poison Ivy

Everyone who enjoys outdoor recreation should be familiar with poison ivy. It grows in Florida, though it is virtually absent from the shoreline. It is only a concern for river paddlers when they make camp for the night.

Stinging Nettle

Unlike poison ivy, which I rarely see, stinging nettle is very common. It is typically small, growing low to the ground, and has a small has a white flower atop a tall stem. Its leaves and stems are covered with small, hair-like nettles.


When your bare skin brushes against the nettles, an ichy rash forms. Your best defense is to keep your socks on while in camp if walking around in sandals or crocs.You don't want to leave the tent at night and step into one as I have.


Is it virtually absent from the coast, making it a concern only for river paddlers when making camp for the night.


Poisonwood is found in dense groves in the Keys and in Everglades National Park. Its black sap, which oozes from pealing orange bark, causes a rash like poison ivy but is ten times more toxic. The leaves often droop, and each leaf is outlined in yellow. Avoid walking under poisonwood trees while it is raining or even soon after it rains. The sticky sap cannot be washed off with water—you must use an oil-dissolving soap or similar substance (such as WD40 or Purell hand sanitizer) to remove the sap from your skin.

The Manchineel Tree

Everything about the manchineel tree is poisonous and the Carib Indians used its deadly sap to tip their arrows. It has small apple-like fruits, which turn golden with a pinkish hue when ripe, and has glossy leaves similar to a ficus. If a branch or leaf is broken, the manchineel tree will drip a milky acidic sap that will burn exposed skin. Wash affected areas immediately. Do not walk under a manchineel tree while it is raining, or even soon after due to the risk that rainfall and dripping water will contain its sap. It grows in the same habitats as the poisonwood and so learning how to recognize both species is essential if you plan to camp in the Everglades or the Keys.