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Downloadable book available on Virginia's poisonous plants

As an increasing number of Virginians foraging for wild plants are eating poisonous greenery, a book to help people to identify and avoid poisonous plants found in the state is now available as a free download.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to people spending more time outdoors and sparked an increased interest in foraging for wild foods, which can lead to accidental poisoning, according to a news release from the University of Virginia Health System.

“Our experts become quickly concerned when they receive a Poison Center call about somebody who has intentionally eaten a plant they harvested from the wild,” Dr. Christopher Holstege, medical director of the Blue Ridge Poison Center and the toxicology consultant for the book, said in the release. “Children often eat just a few berries. But a forager is more likely to consume a large amount. This can lead to more serious health effects.”

The book, “The Socrates Project — Poisonous Plants in Virginia,” is filled with full-color photographs, and can serve as a reference for identifying the 25 poisonous plants that grow in the wild in Virginia.

This work is a collaboration between the Virginia Master Naturalists Program, the Blue Ridge Poison Center at the University of Virginia Health System and the UVa School of Medicine’s Division of Medical Toxicology.

The book project began when members of the Old Rag chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists Program learned that hundreds of exposures to poisonous plants are reported annually in Virginia.

The book can be downloaded for free by visiting If you believe you may have consumed a poisonous plant, call the Poison Center at (800) 222-1222 for medical advice.


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