This is something I've wondered about a bit, but since I'm in Venturing and not Boy Scouts, it isn't something I've actually had to deal with. But I still wonder.
Requirement 11 for the Tenderfoot Rank reads:
"Identify local poisonous plants; tell how to treat for exposure to them."
In the Boy Scout Handbook, the poisonous plants they list are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Here in Utah, none of those are common. In fact, according to the USDA Plants Database, neither poison sumac or poison oak (either species: pacific or atlantic) are located in the state. A species of poison ivy is, but it isn't very common. I have only seen it in a handful of places.
This makes it kind of difficult to teach identification to our scouts. I have some ideas on how I would do it (involving a hike in one of the areas where I know it is), but the way I think it is normally done, is the scouts look at the pictures in the handbook during their troop meeting, talk about them a little and then the Scoutmaster signs it off. I'd be willing to bet 99% of our scouts wouldn't recognize poison ivy if they were to fall headfirst into a thicket of it.
Okay, I'm kind of rambling here. Let's see if I can get back on topic. Quality of instruction aside, what I've really wondered about is, when the requirement says to "identify local poisonous plants" is it limited to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac? These are probably the most common poisonous plants and the most widespread, but they are certainly not the only poisonous plants local to any given area.
What about poison hemlock, water hemlock, deathcamas, jimsonweed, black henbane, false hellebore, and any number of other poisonous plants found in your area (even house plants)? Granted, these aren't necessarily toxic to the touch, but all are toxic if eaten. Isn't that important too?
I'm not suggesting that our tenderfoot scouts become expert botanists, but what does the requirement mean? What point is there in having scouts in Vernal, Utah learning to identify poison sumac, which they may never see in their life, and ignoring deathcamas, which they could find on almost every campout (and given the nature of boys, they might actually try to eat)?
There are a lot of resources to help identify poisonous plants (try local poison control centers, or field guides), and I think it would be good for our scouts to know a few of the ones they might see locally. It shouldn't be too difficult to expand beyond poison ivy. The question is, should we? And if you do, where do you draw the line?
I'd be interested in hearing some other viewpoints on this.