En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
5 ratings

Wednesday - September 24, 2008

From: Los Angeles, CA
Region: California
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Are century plants (Agave spp.) poisonous?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

About 2 weeks ago, I was poked in the arm by a Century Plant, which caused a pretty big bruise to form. I didn't think much of it at first, but now, 2 weeks later, the bruise hasn't healed at all. Should I be worried? Are they poisonous?

ANSWER:

The Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD) has this to say about the Family Agavaceae (Agave or Century Plant Family:

"Many instances of irritancy and possibly allergenicity resulting from contact with members of the family have been recorded.  The irritant (micro-traumatic) effects are attributable to minute needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate know as raphides, probably aggravated by steroidal saponins, proteases, and perhaps other constituents of the sap.  The allergens remain to be identified....Additionally, the thorny edges of the leaves as well as the needle-sharp leaf tips of many species are capable of nflictinig mechanical injury (macro-trauma)."

If one of the thorns of the leaf of the century plant broke off in your arm, you may have gotten some of the irritating sap inside the wound and there may even be a small piece of the thorn left within.  Whether or not you were exposed to the sap, 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.  It sounds like it would be a good idea to visit your Dr. to see why the bruise hasn't cleared up by now.

 

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Sap from agave causing reactions from Edgewater FL
April 06, 2012 - Not only was I stuck with the century plant thorns and needle like ends when I was digging up its pups, but I also broke the carrot-like root of a few when I was transplanting and got the white sap on...
view the full question and answer

Dividing and planting Yucca and pups in New Mexico
June 23, 2009 - I bought a Yucca plant and had 7 plants in one planter 1 large and 6 small. We wanted to split up the plants so we carefully separated them and planted them. My soil is very sandy (Rio Rancho) but I...
view the full question and answer

Pollinating moth of Arkansas Yucca from Arlington TX
May 15, 2012 - What is the pollinating moth of the Arkansas yucca. I have Desert willows which is the larval host for white-winged moth, but the yuccas are still not seeding. What other larval hosts plants can I p...
view the full question and answer

Ingestion of agave sap from Albuquerque NM
June 11, 2013 - My boyfriend was out in the Arizona desert without water for two days and sought moisture through what he thought was a yucca plant but instead we believe was agave. He sucked the moisture off the ins...
view the full question and answer

Bringing upright a leaning cholla cactus
August 29, 2013 - I have a 3 ft. tall Cylindropuntia bigelovii that fell over after recent rains. I righted it and supported it with garden stakes for about a month. I was afraid to pull too hard on the low...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center