West Central Florida is not as developed as potential visitors might think. As you leave the larger cities of Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg and begin to travel up the Gulf Coast, the environment changes dramatically. Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties make up a substantial portion of the area designated as the "Nature Coast". This rural community is a mixture of charming towns, farmland, nature reserves, forests, beaches and natural springs.
I am starting the blog off with some information on the local flora. If you plan on traveling through this area, it would be best to be able to identify these poisonous plants that could have you sporting a very unpleasant looking rash for the next two to three weeks.
Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
Poison Ivy grows in both sunny and shady locations all throughout Florida. It can grow in the form of a shrub or a long climbing / ground running vine. Poison Ivy can usually be identified by it's three broad, spoon-shaped leaves or leaflets. Leaflets can be 2–6 inches long and may be toothed or have smooth edges. In Spring, the leaves of this plant emerge with a shiny reddish tinge and turn a dull green as they age; eventually turning shades of red or purple in the fall before dropping.
An old saying may serve as a reminder and save you from unwanted exposure, "Leaves of three? Let it be!"
Poison Oak (Toxicodendron pubescens)
Like Poison Ivy, Poison Oak can grow in the form of a shrub or a long climbing / ground running vine. While a single Poison Oak leaf usually consists of three leaflets similar to Poison Ivy, the leaves of Poison Oak differ in that they are lobed and look similar to the leaves of an oak tree. Leaf size varies considerably, even on the same plant, but leaves are generally about 6 inches long. Another distinguishing feature of Poison Oak is that the leaf stems and leaflets have a coating of fine hair. In the Spring, leaflets emerge with a reddish tinge before turning green and then assume varying shades of yellow and red in the fall before dropping.
Once again, save yourself from unwanted exposure by remembering the old saying "Leaves of three? Let it be!".
Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix)
Poison Sumac can grow as a shrub or small tree ranging between five and twenty feet tall. Poison Sumac has 7 to 13 leaflets per leaf stem which are arranged in pairs with a single leaflet at the end of the midrib. The Leaflets are elongated, oval, between two and four inches long and one to two inches wide. They have a smooth, velvety texture, smooth edges and pointed tips. Distinctive features include reddish stems and petioles. In early Spring, the leaves emerge bright orange. Later, they become dark green and glossy on the upper leaf surface and pale green on the underside. In the early fall, leaves turn a brilliant red-orange or russet shade. The plant is found in swamps and other wet areas, as well as pine woods, and shady hardwood forests. In Florida, Poison Sumac has been found in the north and central regions. Various field guides have remarked that this plant is more allergenic than both Poison Ivy and Poison Oak.
If you do manage to get yourself into trouble with the local plants, below is a website that explains how to treat Poison Ivy and Poison Oak exposure.
WikiHow Treatment of Poison Ivy & Poison Oak