KIDSGAZETTE

Poisonous plants, once thought to have killed the dinosaurs, are growing in Iowa

Andy Benson, a foraging instructor of Dubuque explains what poison ivy looks like and how to effectively remove the irri
Andy Benson, a foraging instructor of Dubuque explains what poison ivy looks like and how to effectively remove the irritating oils from skin during the Edible Outdoors foraging class at the Johnson County Archery Club in the Lake Macbride Nature Recreation area, Sat. Sept.22, 2018. (Pilsen Photo Coop/Freelance)
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Before scientists agreed dinosaurs likely died after a giant asteroid hit Earth, there were theories dinosaurs died from eating poisonous plants. A study published in 2018 shows dinosaurs just couldn’t learn by taste which foods were toxic.

Humans also have to be careful about poisonous plants.

“There are several that could make you sick,” said John Pearson, a botanist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “If you eat enough of them, you can actually die.”

Some of the poisonous plants in Iowa include mushrooms, such the amanita and false morels, he said.

Another mushroom that would be fun to see, but not eat, would be the jack-o’-lantern mushroom, which is orange and glows at night. This mushroom can cause stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.

Iowa has three plants considered poisonous because they cause an allergic skin reaction. The most well known is poison ivy, which has bunches of three leaflets and can grow close to the ground or climb up tree trunks.

If you brush up against poison ivy, the oil can cause itching, burning and even blisters that show up in 12 to 24 hours. That’s why it’s important to wash your skin with soap and water if you think you might have touched the plant.

The second poisonous plant in Iowa is wild parsnip, a tall plant with lacy, yellow-green heads that often grows in ditches in the summer. If oil from wild parsnip gets on your skin and then you go out in the sun, painful blisters can develop.

The last poisonous plant is the stinging nettle, which has tiny acid-filled needles that can inject their poison into your skin. Fortunately, the reaction to stinging nettle only lasts a few minutes.

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One surprising thing about stinging nettles is you can boil them — which softens and removes the needles — and make them into soup. Wild parsnip also has an edible root, Pearson said.

“A poisonous plant can be both poisonous to the touch and have parts that are good to eat,” he said. “If you want to get into edible wild plants, you need to be aware of the edible ones and poisonous ones.”

Comments: erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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10:15AM | Mon, October 19, 2020

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