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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.

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

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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!

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Friday - June 20, 2008

From: Paris, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Tea made from timothy grass
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

My mom and I have been drinking tea made from Timothy grass seed for many years, 40 at least. It is delicious, and refreshing. My question is can you see any harm in drinking tea made from the seeds of untreated timothy seeds? Is the chemical composition once heated unsafe? We have never suffered any ill affects in all these years and was just curious about it. Thank You, Ruthie Lee

ANSWER:

Phleum pratense (timothy grass), a non-native introduced grass from Europe, is one of the worst of the allergenic grass pollens, second only to Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass), another non-native invasive; but other than causing hayfever and being considered as one of the Invasive and Noxious Weeds of the Northeast I couldn't really find anything else bad or toxic about it. According to the Ohio Perennial & Biennial Weed Guide : "Toxicity: None known. Pollen can cause dermatitis and hayfever." None of our other favorite poisonous plants databases (e.g., Poisonous Plants of North Carolina, Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database, Texas Toxic Plants, Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System) lists it.

Treatment for allergies is often based on applying controlled doses of the allergen to accustom the immune system to it and prohibit the allergic reaction. Both injection immunotherapy (in which extracts of the timothy grass allergens are injected subcutaneously) and sublinqual immunotherapy (in which a pill containing extracts of the timothy grass allergens are allowed to dissolve under the tongue) have been used to treat hayfever caused by timothy grass.

You and your mother are living proof that drinking timothy grass tea for 40 years hasn't caused any obvious harm and, who knows, you may have been desensitizing yourselves to timothy grass hayfever by doing so.
 

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