I’ve been meaning to post something ever since we cleaned up the trail a few weeks back regarding the vegetation you will find. For many of us, this is stuff we grew up hearing and in many cases experiencing the hard way, so there will be those of you who recognize this information and recall times in your past when those lessons left their marks.
But for those of you less familiar with the joys of the outdoors, or who have not encountered the less friendly flora of the Virginia landscape, I offer the following.

A while back I posted some information about the toxic weeds that you can find in our neighborhood – Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac. (
I want everyone to be very aware of these plants when walking the trail.  Poison Ivy has 3 smooth leaves, and can be a wide range of colors.  The first picture below is of a very mature plant, and looks hardier than the darker green leaves on the vine below it. But they are both Poison Ivy, and they will both make you itch like crazy.

While the five leaved Virginia Creeper plant that resembles poison ivy is not toxic, it often grows side by side with both Poison Ivy AND Poison Sumac, so it’s usually best to steer clear of that as well.

Another thing to be VERY aware of is that the oil from the Poison Ivy can get on your shoes and clothing, and your pet’s fur, and while you may not have any problems immediately, you could inadvertently track that into your home later, and eventually come in contact with it and experience a surprise rash. So watch where you are walking – and look for the familiar “leaves of three,” and “leave them be” – stay clear of them.

But it’s equally as important to watch for Sumac along the trail – it is the perfect area for it, and there are some sizable Sumac bushes that you REALLY don’t want brushing your face. I had that happen as a kid and ended up with a rash in my eyes that I had to put a salve in every day for a week to help me recover – it was awful. So look out for this bush and leaf structure –

One of my FAVORITE types of cobbler is Blackberry. (if you don’t know what that is, it’s a big square dish with flour, sugar and berries baked into a pie-like pastry – they’re DELICIOUS.) And we have tons of Blackberry bushes in the neighborhood. But be careful and pay attention to where you are picking later this year – Blackberry leaves resemble poison ivy, and often grow alongside it. There are noticeable differences though – the leaves have a slightly different look, and Blackberries have briers, while Poison Ivy does not.

This is a Blackberry bush growing in the middle of a bunch of Poison Ivy…



Look for the briers, and note the slight differences in the leaves…




These are both Blackberry bushes…

One final warning I’ll leave you with is to avoid Pokeweed. There are tons of them around the neighborhood, and unless you grew up in the backwoods somewhere around people that really know what to do what to do with that stuff, it is deadly poison. Seriously – Pokeweed can cause nausea, vomiting, cramping, stomach pain, diarrhea, low blood pressure, difficulty controlling urination (incontinence), thirst, and other serious side effects. No matter what you read on the internet, don’t mess with it. There are lots of sites out there that say they will show you how to prepare it and they claim that it’s ok to eat if you cook it right and all that – but it’s crap. Don’t mess with it, and make sure your kids know that the berries are toxic – just a few of them if ingested can be fatal.

With all that said, don’t avoid the trail – enjoy it! Just know what to avoid while walking the trail.

More information on Poison Ivy and similar plants –