Eagle River Nature Center promotes plant safety on the trails
There’s a lot to see and touch outdoors in Alaska, so it’s important to know which plants are poisonous or harmful and which ones are safe.
Ute Olsson is the chief naturalist at the Eagle River Nature Center and gives free guided tours to help educate people about how to stay safe when exploring Alaska.
She points out a plant called pushki, also known as cow parsnip. You don't want to touch it while it's young.
"Because if you get the juice of the plant on your skin and then the sun shines on it, there can be this chemical reaction, photochemical reaction, that a lot of people are sensitive to," said Olsson.
She says people who are new to Alaska may not be familiar with the state’s flora, so she teaches them about their new environment.
Among the people on Olsson’s tour was the Berno family who recently moved up from Florida.
"One of the big draws for us moving up here was to be outdoors, and so having a better knowledge of that just adds to the enjoyment," said Brad Berno.
Some plants aren’t harmful at all, like spruce tips. In fact, they even have some positive effects on the body.
"Here's something green and fresh, you can make spruce tip tea. It's really good for both getting your vitamin C but also for colds and things like that," said Olsson.
Olsson says one of her best pieces of advice is to verify anything before eating it, in order to avoid costly mistakes.
"Before you put anything in your mouth, before you eat anything, you've got to verify, you've got to look it up, you got to make sure you know what the plant is," Olsson said.
More information about the nature center’s public programs can be found on the organization’s website.
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