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4 General, But Essential Non Edible Survival Plant Rules

Many articles have a list of the “Top X number of non edible plants” or something equivalent. However, relying on a list can get you in trouble as there are hundreds of toxic plants that you might not even know about. Therefore, I will not focus on specific non-edible or toxic plants. I will though focus on four top rules that you need to know before you attempt to forage for food or for a medicinal purpose. The following will be covered:

  1. Plant Identification Myths
  2. Be Aware Of Commonly Mistaken Non Edible Plants
  3. There Is Never A 100% Assurance Of Safety
  4. Never Assume a Medicinal Plant Is Safe To Eat

As stated, the examples here are far from being exhaustive; they will hopefully make you realize what you should be aware of when searching for wild, and natural food crops.

In the end, in the Appendix, I will list a few common nonedible, common plants (household) or and also wild toxic plants.

Four Rules Of Safety For Non Edible Plants

1. Plant Identification Myths

You’ve most likely heard of the saying “Leaves in three, let it be!”, or something equivalent. You may not know though that this rule only covers Poison Ivy and Poison Oak. And there are hundreds of other plants that are either/or toxic to touch or eat. For example, Poison Sumac has leaf clusters of seven to 13.

What you need to learn about the above is that there are not any shortcuts when it comes to identifying a toxic plant. The only sure way is through in-field experience and studying the various pictures of both edible plants and also non edible plants.

2. Be Aware Of Commonly Mistaken Non Edible Plants

There are several toxic plants that mimic edible species of plants. Some of the more common are various cactus plants and also the wild onion.


Most common cactus species are not considered poisonous and most cactus plants are considered edible. (However, they might need special preparation). There are a few cactus species, which contain mescaline, that that can cause a reaction similar to a magic mushroom or LSD trip.

Peyote Cactus

The Peyote Cactus

At first glance, those that have enjoyed psychedelics might find this warning to be a bit of a joke. But, in outdoor survival, you want to be on your “A” game, and tripping balls is not recommended when you are in the middle of the desert with no water in sight, and you are fighting for survival.

The San Pedro and Peyote cactus are two types of cactus containing hallucinogenic properties. So, if you are going to think about consuming cactus for survival or drinking water from a cactus you need to be sure that you eat the correct cactus species and not a magic “cactus.”

Wild Onion


Wild onion is found in your lawn and also in the wild. There are several websites where you can even get recipes, that use the wild onion for a salad or other food course. So, the wild onion is safe to eat. However, before eating one you need to make sure that you are actually eating a wild onion and not a toxic look alike. The “Crow Poison”, and Death Camus are two wild onion lookalike plants that are extremely toxic to humans.

3. There Is Never a 100% Safety Assurance

Mustard Greens

Mustard Greens

Mustard Greens-

No matter how much you’ve researched. You can never be 100% assured that any foraged plant will be edible. For example, a mustard greens is an edible plant that is an excellent source of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps with is blood clotting. What could go wrong though is that the blood clotting properties of vitamin K might interfere with blood-thinning pharmaceuticals.

Kidney Stone Danger-Mustard greens also contain oxalic acid, which is known to increase the risk of kidney stones in some people.


Garlic also has anti-clotting properties, which can be helpful for your blood and heart health. Too much garlic can also cause dangerous effects for some individuals who are taking blood-thinning drugs like Warfarin. Additionally, too much garlic can also cause GI issues like stomach aches, bloating, and diarrhea.

Wild Rice

Wild rice is generally considered to be safe to eat. However, wild rice can turn toxic if it is infected with an ergot fungus. Ergo infected rice can be detected by visibly purple spots or fungus. Eating ergot-infected rice can cause symptoms ranging from headaches, vomiting, dizziness, and even seizures and confusion.

4. Never Assume a Medicinal Plant Is Edible

Jimson weed

Jimson Weed-Can Be Deadly

A plant having a medicinal purpose is not an assurance that it can be considered to be safe food. An example of this would be the wild plant, Jimson Weed. Jimson weed is a plant native in the US and is either chewed or made into tea. It has been for centuries for treating mild respiratory illnesses like asthma, influenza coughs, and other illnesses. I am not going into whether it does actually help in the above. But, I will tell you that too much jimson weed can cause the following:

  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Vision Problems
  • Hallucinations and Confusion
  • Aggressiveness
  • Dry Mouth and More. . .

In severe cases, an OD of Jimson weed might cause coma, seizures, and in rare cases death

Other Examples

Jimson Weed is just one example of Medicinal herbs that, when not properly used, can result in harmful and potentially fatal complications for humans. Other examples are clover, pennyroyal, and sassafrass.


Non-Edible and Edible Plants (Common and Wild)

Non Edible Common Plant List

It is not likely that you’ll be tempted to eat an ornamental plant like a poinsettia, rhododendron, or an African Lilly, (all of which are poisonous) as they are normally only encountered as house plants. However, some common plant species might make be a tempting treat for your furry friend.

Non Edible Wild Plants

There are thousands of both non edible and edible wild plant species. So, as I first mentioned, I am only going to list a few common and some surprisingly, typical, toxic wild plants.


If you celebrate Christmas you are likely familiar with the missile toe and its white berries. What you may not know is that the missile toe doesn’t contain any edible parts as the berries, leaves, stems, and the entire plant is poisonous.



Pokeberry->Pretty But Deadly

The Pokeberry is beautiful and very tasty-looking. They can be identified by purple-black berries and bright pink stalks that can reach heights up to eight feet. They are quite beautiful. However, the pokeberry is also so poisonous that a small handful of these berries can kill a small child.

Giant Hogwood

Giant Hogweed is an invasive poisonous plant species that were originally from Europe. The plant can reach a height of up to 14 feet or more. It is known for having hairy stalks and white flowers, which resembled a wild carrot. The bad news is that if you touch, any of its plant parts, you’ll be affected with nasty blisters that are caused by sap from this plant. This sap is so caustic that it can cause permanent scaring and, if it is sprayed in your eyes, blindness.

Other Poisonous Wild Plants

  • Holly
  • Dogwood