Identifying Poisonous Plants

A guide to the dangers of poisonous plants found in Scotland, and how to avoid them. Illustrated by Jason Kerley.

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Identifying Poisonous Plants

This blueprint is a guide to identifying common poisonous plants in Scotland.

Illustrated by Jason Kerley and produced in partnership with the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine.


Lords and Ladies

In Season March – October

These beautiful plants grow in the shade. Don’t be tempted to eat the bright red berries or use the leaves as make-shift loo roll as they will both have painful consequences.

Not to be confused with… Foxglove or Comfrey.

Comfrey leaves are used in Herbal Medicine to heal tissues, mainly externally. It is also used in organic gardening as fertiliser.


In Season: June – September

Foxglove can be poisonous when eaten and grows in open woodland, hedgerows and moorland.

Not to be confused with… Comfrey

Comfrey leaves are hairy, especially underneath. Their top surface has an indented and structural feel.

Foxglove leaves are much softer when young and leathery when older.

Monks Hood

In Season: March – October

Monks Hood can be found in gardens, woods and ditches and is poisonous to touch.

Night Shade

In Season: March – November

Night Shade can be found in forests and hedgerows. The foliage and berries are extremely toxic when eaten.


In Season: June to July

Hemlock is actually part of the carrot family but is a notoriously poisonous plant. Hemlock has a repellent smell when its leaves are when its leaves are crushed.

Not to be confused with… The other members of the plant family with umbrella like flowers. This includes wild versions of the carrot and parsnip, and also fennel, dill, sweet cicely, etc., which smell pleasantly of aniseed.

Extreme caution in picking this family is required.


Produced as part of Ecopoetics, our programme engaging Scottish young people with nature and greenspace. Ecopoetics is created in partnership with the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine and aims to increase access to knowledge about local plants, producers and their health benefits and inspire young people to take charge of their own food conception for the benefit of the environment and health.

The Scottish School of Herbal Medicine (SSHM) was established in 1992. Externally validated by the University of Wales to maintain autonomy, the School’s reputation is further enhanced by our insisting that all our teachers have to be practitioners in their own field to bring direct relevance to experiential practice. We also place an emphasis on energetic Traditional systems such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Humoral medicine as well as the Traditional shamanic worldview. Our commitment to the Goethean Contemplative approach to plant and person study along with our unique teaching approach using the pharmacology of taste for direct experiential learning means that our professional training and post graduate herbal programmes are rated as the best in the country and indeed, further a field judging from the number of international students we have worked with over the years.

Supported by The Williamson Trust, and The D'Oyly Carte Charitable Trust