En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Are century plants (Agave spp.) poisonous?

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

Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
August 28, 2012 - My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area...
view the full question and answer

Why is my Agave suffering in Mesa, Arizona?
August 06, 2009 - I live in Mesa AZ, and have an agave that we planted 7 years ago. It grew like crazy with hardly any care whatsoever, until I cut off some of the bottom leaves and 'pups' about a month ago. Recently...
view the full question and answer

Century plant leaves yellowing from Magnolia TX
July 04, 2013 - The leaves on my large Agave/Century plant are turning yellow. The bottom leaves, touching the ground are dying. Plant is 5.5" tall, 6" across & approx 10 yrs old. Recently we put red mulch around t...
view the full question and answer

Thorny shrub for deterring break-ins in southeast Texas
February 05, 2013 - Looking for a very, very, thorny three or four foot tall shrub for in front of windows to deter break-ins. Considering Rosa Rugosa rose but it is not native.
view the full question and answer

Plants for big pots by pool in Austin
August 14, 2012 - Could you please suggest some plants to put in big pots out by my pool? They will get lots of heat and sun. Thanks.
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