Usually when we refer to 'The Big Four', we're talking about Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. Well, not in this case.

When talking about 'The Big Four' in Michigan, I'm referring to four poisonous plants you need to avoid including poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak and giant hogweed.



Poison ivy is basically my arch enemy as I'm highly allergic to it and for some reason, I come into contact with it every year. Even if I protect myself with gloves and long sleeves, I still end up getting it. I've even had it on the most horrific parts of my body that you can imagine. My summer months would be amazing if this stupid plant didn't exist.

Not everyone is allergic to poison ivy. According to Web MD, up to 85% of Americans are allergic to poison ivy, leaving 15% in the clear of any reaction. It's actually the oil (urushiol) on the plant that people are allergic to, not the plant itself.


Like poison ivy, poison oak can be found in many areas. Typically this plant can look like a shrub but it can also grow like a vine in shaded areas. Poison oak is very similar to poison ivy, it can have shiny leaves and also irritate the hell out of the skin.

Again, it's not the plant that is poisonous, it the nasty long-lasting oil called urushiol that causes the body to itch like crazy, plus a blistering rash after it touches your skin. Even slight contact, like brushing up against the leaves, can leave the oil behind just like poison ivy.


Poison sumac is less common in Michigan than poison ivy and poison oak and is more commonly found in southern states especially Florida. It's normally found in wet wooded areas. If you do come in contact, your rash could become more severe than poison ivy and poison oak.


Giant Hogweed is a plant I only first heard of a few years ago but have yet to see it. I hope I never do because it's way more dangerous than all the above. As a matter of fact, it's so dangerous that it's illegal to sell or transport across state lines. If this sucker comes into contact with your eyes, it could cause temporary or permanent blindness. That's some pretty serious stuff.

There's a lot of plants that look like giant hogweed but only 2% of suspected plants that get reported are actually the real deal. It's been reported in many counties in Michigan but it's less common than the other poisonous plants above.

Regardless which poisonous plant you come in contact with, wash the affected areas immediately. Be sure that you wash using a washcloth within 2-8 of coming in contact. It doesn't really matter what kind of soap you use just make sure you use a washcloth. Using a washcloth or loofah is very important because it causes friction which is needed to get that damn oil off your skin.

Source: Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Medicine, A Healthier Michigan and WebMD.