Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Thursday - April 03, 2008

From: Jacksonville, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Campsis radicans or cow itch
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We cleaned my father-in-law's home-place up out in the country week-before-last. My wife, her 2 sisters and a niece have this unusual-looking poison on them. It is big red places and itches all over their bodies. Some say it is "cow itch". What is cow itch and what does it look like?

ANSWER:

One of the common names for Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) is cow itch vine. We found a website on trumpet creeper that mentioned the irritation caused by contact with this vine; however, it states that the irritation should only last for a few minutes. It is a native of North Carolina, and easily escapes cultivation and gets all over everywhere, so you could easily have come in contact with it during your cleanup operation. Unfortunately, we suspect what you actually encountered is Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy). This plant is also native to North Carolina, and often found in shady, neglected areas. The rash from this for those sensitive to it (and nearly everyone is) is much more persistent, painful and hard to control. We don't have pictures for the two different rashes-a rash is a rash, showing up differently on different types of skin, etc. The members of your family that had the misfortune to come in contact with it should probably see a doctor. There are treatments for the rash, and it can be almost disabling until it goes away. You will note, when you read the webpage for this vine, that it can have many different appearances, and here is a page of images of the plant. We'll add a couple from our own Image Gallery. You can compare the leaves of the trumpet creeper with the leaves of the poison ivy, and see that, even when the trumpet creeper is not in bloom, there shouldn't be any confusion between the two plants. Remember the old saying, "Leaves of three, leave them be."


Campsis radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

 

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Need information about the toxicity of some newly acquired plants in Austin, TX
January 04, 2010 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I just got a Carolina Buckthorn tree, a silk tassel, a wafer ash, and an escarpment black cherry tree. I wonder if any of these trees produce berries that would be poisonous to ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native vines poisonous from Bakersfield CA
May 17, 2013 - Are pink bower vines and stars and stripes mandevilla toxic to dogs?
view the full question and answer

Identification of bush/vine with purple berries
August 09, 2014 - I was clearing fence line and came across this plant it looks like a Bush but underneath grows like a vine it has long broad leaves that reminded me of Polk salad but it grows berry clusters the berri...
view the full question and answer

Plants causing skin irritation in West Bend WI
May 26, 2011 - Is there a list of plants that cause blistering in this area? I have a friend who gets it bad every year-I find no evidence of cow parsnip or poison ivy---thanks.
view the full question and answer

Are mountain laurel beans safe to use as rattles with small children?
September 19, 2012 - Is it safe to use the mountain laurel mescalbean pods as shakers or rattles, as long as the pods are not open and the seeds left unexposed? If a small child (very small, who has no way to open the ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.