Imagine you’re hiking through the forest and all of a sudden you go sliding down the side of a mountain. You’re stuck, you’re all alone, and the only thing in your backpack is a water bottle, crumbs from a Nature Valley bar, and your dead cell phone. What do you do?

After reading this post, you’ll use your plant knowledge to treat your wounds, heal your pain, nourish your body, wash your hands, and quench your thirst. You will also figure out which plants you need to avoid if you plan on making it through even one night. Some of the plants on this list look harmless, but the truth could mean the difference between life and death.

1. Rafflesia flower: These are the largest flowers in the world. They can grow up to 39 inches in diameter and can weigh up to 22 pounds. If you ever stumble upon them in southeast Asia — and just so happen to be suffering from internal bleeding — ingest the flower to stop the flow.

2. Wolffia globosa (Watermeal): Contrary to the Rafflesia, this plant is the world’s smallest plant. It floats at the surface of ponds and can sometimes grow at the top of fish tanks. If you’re ever lost and find these plants, then you’ve just stumbled upon dinner for the night. Make a fire and roast the sweet cabbage-tasting treat that’s rich in vitamins A, B2, B6, C, and nicotinic acid.

Christian Fischer

3. Bull thistle: This scary looking plant is actually quite useful if you find it in the wild. The roots, stems, flowers, and leaves can be eaten if you’re stranded and starving. If you’re trying to cook something else, dried bull thistle is flammable and will help start a fire. 

4. Bleeding Tooth Fungus: Found in Europe and the North American Pacific Northwest, this “bleeding” mushroom is not edible and it won’t send you to Strawberry Fields. If you do eat it, an overwhelming taste of bitter pepper will fill your taste buds — you’ll become nauseous and your gag reflex will trigger. It won’t kill you, but it won’t help you either!

5. Aloe vera: This “wonder flower” is widely known for its healing powers, but if you find it in the wild you’re in for a real treat. Aloe helps with skin irritations like rashes and burns, but it also has antibacterial properties that can be used for cuts.

6. Pineapple Weed: Hikers have long looked for this plant as a source of nutrition. Although it doesn’t taste like pineapple, it still provides energy for the whole day. Visually similar to chamomile, you can also make a healthy tea with it or mash it up and use it as an insect repellent.

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7. Red Cup Mushroom: These intriguing “scarlet elf cups” are pretty useless. They have no nutritional value, are very dry and tasteless, and if eaten in large quantities, they’ll cause more harm then good. But, if you must collect water from a nearby stream, these little guys make great cups! 

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8. Mullein: This might be one of the most important plants on this list. If you’re ever stranded for a long period of time, chances are you’re going to need to go to the bathroom. This plant’s common name is “cowboy toilet paper.” Its soft leaves make a perfect substitute for the plush roll. Just look for a plant with a long stem, short yellow flowers, and soft leaves, and you’re in luck!

9. Burdock: The best way to identify this plant is to walk through a field and see what sticks. Seriously, this plant is covered with annoying, sticky burrs that attach themselves to anything they touch. But if you get past that, the stem has amazing healing and antibacterial powers. Additionally, if you’re diabetic and need insulin, the root will lower high glucose levels.

10. Dandelions: What is normally the unwanted weed in the garden can be very useful if stumbled upon in the wild. The entire plant can be ingested raw, although the roots are very bitter. The yellow flowers can be used to make syrup, or, if you’re looking for a good time, they make dandelion wine, too.

11. White Snakeroot: Abraham Lincoln’s own mother died from milk poisoning. What poisoned the milk? Well, the cows the family drank from ingested this flower. Don’t be like Mama Lincoln. When you see this plant, run! 

12. Chicory: It’s day five. You’re still stranded and now you’re having coffee withdrawals. Don’t worry, look for the bushy plant with small blue, lavender, and white flowers. If you toast them you can use the flowers as a coffee substitute to get your fix. It’s not a pumpkin spiced latte, but you can’t be picky in the wild.

13. Wood Sorrel: The great thing about this plant is that it grows all over the world, so it doesn’t matter where you get lost. The flowers are edible and a great source of Vitamin C, and if you just chew them, they help alleviate thirst. Additionally, if you have sores in your mouth for whatever reason, eating this helps promote healing.

14. Angel’s Trumpet: Contrary to its angelic name, these flowers are pure evil. Not only will you die if you eat them, but they will torture you before it happens. If ingested, expect to experience things like paralysis, hallucinations, a violent trance, AND THEN death. So tell your friends, toot your own plant-connoisseur horn because this knowledge is life-saving.

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15. Narrow-Leaved Yucca: The interior part of the roots can help you keep clean during your stay in the wild (whether it be intentional or accidental). Dig up the plant, peel off the outer layer of the root, and then grind it with a rock. Mix this substance with water and get to scrubbing. Like soap, the friction will produce foam.

16. Sage: Besides using sage to cleanse your home of evil spirits, it can also cleanse your body of B.O. Just rub raw sage leaves all over your body for a natural deodorant. If you need a little more help killing the odor-causing bacteria, you can take a smoke bath in burning sage that will leave you smelling fresh.

17. Rocky Mountain Willows: Named after the most common region they’re found in, these flowers are like nature’s aspirin. Got a fever? Have a headache? Fell down a mountainside and broke your arm? Ingesting this plant acts as a pain killer. Also, eat something you shouldn’t have and now your stomach is upset? Works for that, too!

18. Nightshade: With a name like that, you know this plant should NOT be messed with. The roots are by far the most poisonous, but just two berries can kill a child. If you eat a little by mistake and actually live, it’ll cause you intense hallucinations and delirium. So if you see a dark, ominous plant… probably best to just leave it alone!

19. Trembling Aspen: If you’re stuck out in the wilderness with little to no shelter, chances are you’re going to get a pretty nasty sunburn. So find this plant and rub the chalky bark all over your body for a natural sunblock protection!

20. Prickly Pear Cactus: What looks like a plant you should steer clear of is actually one of the few helpful desert plants. If you don’t have a source of food, you can eat the reddish fruits at the top. Just remember to remove the prickly outer layer first. The inside of the cactus itself is also great at helping fight high cholesterol and high blood pressure, controlling sugar levels, and curing a hangover.

So now if you ever find yourself stranded in the middle of no-man’s land with nothing but crumbs in your pockets, you know what plants can help you — and what plants you just need to straight up avoid!

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