I just bought my first house in August and this is the first spring/summer and there are plants in my yard that I have no clue if they'll kill me or grow beautiful flowers. I decided I'd look them up and hopefully this list helps you out too!

To me, usually anything that's viney with around 5 leaves is poison ivy and I steer clear even though I know that's not the case. Thankfully, New York Upstate has a list of how to identify 7 of the most harmful plants that are growing in your Upstate New York yard.

  • Credit: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

    Cow Parsnip

    Yeah, I know, I've never heard of this either but apparently, though it's uncommon, it does pop up here and there in cooler areas of the state. It looks like "Stems topped with broad, flat, white flower clusters that may grow to 1 foot across" with heart shaped seeds. It can cause sun sensitivity and a blistering itching rash.

  • Credit: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

    Giant Hogweed

    Do not touch this plant. It can be extremely dangerous leaving permanent scarring and blindness and grows everywhere. It looks like "White flowers that grow in clusters of 50-150 rays up to 2.5 feet across."

  • Credit: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

    Poison Ivy

    This is a pretty common plant and I still am not 100% sure what it looks like. Thank goodness that the poison ivy isn't incredibly dangerous (unless you're allergic) because it's appearance varies and that's why I never know if I'm looking at it or not. "All poison ivy has three leaflets, with the central leaflet being the largest and having a stem. The smaller leaflets do not have a stem, and attach directly to the leaf stem...leaves are usually glossy" and could have small flowers or berries. Touching the plant usually will leave you with an itchy rash that may take 24 hours to appear.

  • Credit: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

    Poison Sumac

    Compared to poison ivy, this is a little less common and usually found around watery areas. It "looks like a small tree or multi-stemmed shrub with grey bark with compound leaves with 7-13 smooth leaflets coming off a stem that may be a reddish color." You have a similar reaction to it as you would a poison ivy but because it's more rare, most people can't identify it.

  • Credit: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

    Stinging Nettle

    Anything that has "stinging" in its name doesn't sound too fun, does it? This is also apparently pretty common can can pretty much be found anywhere, especially when you're hiking. It has "Stinging hairs about 1 millimeter long that stick out from the stem, leaf stalks and leaf veins...distinctive veins and "teeth" on the leaves...tiny clusters of flowers near the base of each leaf pair." If you brush up against one, it'll probably feel like a bee sting followed by an intense stinging feeling.

  • Credit: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

    Water Chestnut

    This is probably the plant that is least likely to harm you but it looks pretty intimidating so you should probably know what they are if you see them. They look like "hard, diamond-shaped, black nuts with four-inch barbed spines." It'll mostly harm the environment around it but it is hard so if you were step on it, it's not going to feel great.

  • Credit: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

    Wild Parsnip

    Do not touch this plant. It's similar to its relatives giant hogweed and cow parsnip. They look like "grooved, hairless stems that can grow up to 5 feet tall...distinctive small, yellow flowers  clustered together in a flat-topped array." Also like it's relatives, it makes your skin extra vulnerable to the sun and leave you with a severe burn which can also increase your sensitivity for years.