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
2 ratings

Monday - August 18, 2008

From: Los Angeles, CA
Region: California
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Are palm leaves poisonous?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Are palm tree leaves poisionous? Because my dad was doing yard work and was stuck by a palm tree leaf in his calf. His calf has swollen and in he thinks it broke off in his calf.

ANSWER:

There are a goodly number of different palm trees in California. Here are just a few:

Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm), native to California

Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm), a native of the the Canary Islands

Phoenix spp. (other date palms), various nativities

Brahea edulis (Guadalupe Palm), native to Mexico and Guadalupe Island

Brahea armata (Mexican blue palm), native Baja California

Howea forsteriana (Kentia palm), native to Lord Howe Island, Australia

Archontophoenix cunninghamiana (Bungalow palm), another Australian species

I don't know which species your father was 'attacked' by, but you can read about the dermatological effects caused by various species of palms in the Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD) from Cardiff University in Wales. They offer an assessment of many of the palms in the Family Arecaceae (syn. Palmae). You will note that their introduction page cites a study in Panama from 1943 that says palm frond thorn injuries (palm species not named) are noted for causing infections. Their entry for Phoenix loureiri (pigmy date palm) says:

"The spine-tip may be broken off and serve as a foreign body but a chemical irritant may also be present in the thorns..."

According to Forests Factsheet. a publication of the State of Victoria, Australia the fronds of Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm) are poisonous.

So there is a good chance that the thorn of whichever palm entered your father's leg has some chemical irritant in it. However, whether it does or not, puncture wounds of any kind are notorious for becoming infected. This is why it is important to remove the thorn as soon as possible and thoroughly clean the wound. Read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about puncture wounds.


Washingtonia filifera

Washingtonia filifera

 

 

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Plants referred to as Hummingbird plants
August 22, 2008 - We have a a plant that is sometimes called a Hummingbird Plant, sometimes a Firecracker plant. I have also seen the name lonicera sempervirens. Are they poisonous? This is a plant, not a vine. T...
view the full question and answer

Is Artemesia ludoviciana allelopathic?
February 20, 2009 - I recently read that Artemisia ludoviciana is allelopathic to some other plants. I planted some last fall between a rusty blackhaw viburnum and a Mexican buckeye. Do you know whether it is phytotoxi...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs not toxic to cattle in NJ
December 09, 2013 - I am working to rejuvenate the hedgerows on a farm in New Jersey by removing invasive plants and planting native shrubs. How do I find out which native shrubs are toxic to cattle and should not be pl...
view the full question and answer

Do prairie verbenas (Glandularia bipinnatifida) have toxic sap?
March 16, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in Wimberley, TX and my 6 year old daughter picked wildflowers for her Mom over the weekend. I believe the species was Prairie Verbena but not 100% certain. Now, fo...
view the full question and answer

Palm tip wound in Sacramento CA
June 25, 2009 - My husband was stuck in his calf with a palm leaf, he is now complaining of stiffness where it went in, is there any kind of poison in it?
view the full question and answer

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