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Plants and Animals

Roadsides are home to a variety of plants and animals, which can be harmful to people as well as to the environment. 

Two common plants that can cause severe skin irritation are poison ivy and giant hogweed.

Poison ivy is a vine that has three leaves. Wear protective clothing and don’t touch the vines with your bare hands. The plant’s oil causes blisters and itchy skin. Quickly wash the skin that came in contact with the poison ivy within ten minutes to minimize the reaction.

Giant hogweed

Another plant that can cause severe skin irritation is the giant hogweed. In Pennsylvania, this plant’s stems grow to heights of 8 feet to 14 feet tall. Small white flowers make up the 2 ½ foot cluster, coarse hairs that circle the stems, and the leaves are lobed, deeply incised and up to 5 feet in diameter.

Do not touch or handle this plant with your bare hands. The sap produces painful, burning blisters within 24-28 hours after contact. If you do come into contact with giant hogweed, wash immediately with soap and water. Please call the giant hogweed hotline (1-877-464-9333) to report the location.

Mile A Minute

Three common invasive plants that cause environmental harm are Mile a Minute, Knotweed and Tree of Heaven. These plants overrun and destroy all other plants in the area. If you suspect your potential beautification site has any of these invasive plants, please notify your PennDOT representative before you submit your application.


In addition to looking out for harmful plants, keep your eyes open for stinging insects, rodents, snakes and deer. For your safety, do not touch or pick up any animals you see along the roadside. Leave wild animals alone. Also, for safety’s sake, leave your pets at home.

Last but not least, should you find dead animals, call 1-800-FIX-ROAD. For your safety, do not handle dead animals.

Next: Health and First Aid

 Content Editor