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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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Saturday - January 29, 2005

From: West Linn, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Skin irritation caused by blanket flower (Gaillardia sp.)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Could you tell me whether it is the leaves or the spent flower heads, the seed heads, that cause irritation to bare legs after walking through a field of Indian Blankets? Gallardia I believe is the Latin name. Thank you for this information. I remember the irritation, but never knew or bothered to find out which caused it.

ANSWER:

It seems that all parts of blanket flower (Gaillardia sp.) can cause skin irritation because of the presence of chemicals called sesquiterpene lactones. You can read about this on, of all places, the web page of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The ninth paragraph of this article talks specifically about Gaillardia. Blanket flower is also listed by the Department of Plant and Soil Science of the University of Vermont Extension System as potentially harmful as a skin irritant.
 

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