Amazing Kids! Magazine

What’s That Plant in My Back Yard?

By Natalie Brady, Jr. Assistant Editor


There are many different types of plants all over the world. Have you ever stopped to wonder what they are? Like, what type of tree is standing in your backyard? Or, how you tell which plant is poisonous and which plant isn’t? I stop to wonder all the time – in fact, I’m probably one of the only kids at my school who can never tell which plant is Poison Ivy. Yeah, I know, go ahead and laugh and make fun of me. But, after me writing this article and you reading this article, we’ll all be able to know how to identify a tree, the myths and facts of poisonous plants, and what invaders are. Shall we begin?


Trees are always a good place to begin. Just recently, I went on a field trip to the local nature center with my biology class. We were given these small, yet thick, books with all the names of all the trees and how to identify them – a dichotomous key.

You’ve probably used a dichotomous key in class; a small one, not a large one, identifying aliens or something. A dichotomous key is a series of question, and to each question there are two answers that lead you to the next question, depending on which you choose, until you get to the type of tree it is.

Let me tell you, a dichotomous key for identifying trees is a lot harder than you would expect. The questions are so specific, and if you answer just one question wrong, the entire thing is wrong and if you have to go back and start over.

Attached is a link to a smaller and less complex dichotomous key, to give you all a little taste of how to use one.

Poisonous Plants: Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Sumac

“Leaves of three, let them be…”: the most famous saying when being careful of poisonous plants. Except, how much do you really know about them? Aren’t poisonous plants contagious, you ask? “I’m immune to it,” you say. Well, what are the MYTHS and what are the FACTS?

Myth #1: “Leaves of three, let them be”.

FACT: Sumac can have anywhere from seven to thirteen leaves on just one branch, and even Poison Ivy and Oak have three leaves PER cluster.

Myth #2: The rash is contagious; you can get it from another person or a plant around the poisonous plant.

FACT: You can only spread the rash if there is still Urusiol oil on your skin – the same with plants around it. Urusiol oil is a sticky, resin like substance that is actually the main source of the allergic reactions or irritation rashes caused by the poisonous plants.

Myth #3: “I’ve been around poisonous plants all the time and I don’t get rashes – I’m obviously immune.”

FACT: HAHAHAHA. Not necessarily true. Most people are allergic to Urusiol oil, it all depends on time and exposure. As you grow older the allergy may start coming out, and the longer you’re around it the more likely you will develop an allergic rash.


Finally, our last topic of the article: Invaders. Sounds very video-game-ish, doesn’t it? Well, to me it does. Anyway, an invader is a species of plant that is not native to the country: for example honeysuckle.

While it does taste good, honeysuckle is not native to the United States. It is actually native to Asia and different parts of Europe. It was transferred to the U.S. probably on a boat or by some other mistake, and since then it has invaded the U.S. This aggressive vine invades different areas, having drastic effects on it: killing off other plants, damaging trees, etcetera.

Invaders are not good for non-native countries – they affect the land in dramatic ways. Next time you see a honeysuckle, remember that not only does it taste good, but it has an ulterior motive.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the dichotomous keys, poisonous plants, and invaders. Now you know a little more about all the mysterious plants out there.