En Español

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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - July 06, 2009

From: Monroe, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Skin irritation caused by hydrangea in Monroe GA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can Queen Anne Lace hydrangea cause a skin irritation such as poison ivy or oak? I picked up a branch that had broken off to discard and the following day I have a place on my arm about six inches long that has blisters and is burning and itching like poison ivy.

ANSWER:

Apparently so. It's getting to where people with allergies aren't safe anywhere. This article from "Poisonous Plants of Georgia" from the  Herbarium of the University of Georgia at Athens describes the symptoms, acknowledging that the sensitivity to branches, leaves and flowers is real. It apparently is most often found in nursery workers who are occupied with propagating hydrangeas. It can, however, take one to ten years before the sensitivity develops.

There are two species of hydrangea native to Georgia: Hydrangea arborescens (wild hydrangea) and Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea). Your naming your hydrangea as "Queen Anne Lace" leads us to believe you have a hybrid or a cultivar named that by some plant retailer. We could find no actual hydrangea by that common name.

We learned that the culprit in the hydrangea is an isocoumarin derivative of hydragenol and that it is not present in all hydrangeas. However, since we don't have a clue which hydrangea you have in your garden, your best bet is to avoid them all. You apparently were sensitized very quickly, if this is the first time you had the reaction, or perhaps it was the first time you handled hydrangea branches. Nursery workers experiencing the problem wear rubber gloves when doing their work with the plant. 

However, there is also the possibility that you DO have poison ivy. It is a sneaky vine that likes the same moist, partly shady conditions that hydrangeas do, and loves to hide in dense shrubs. Either way, this is a medical matter, out of Mr. Smarty Plants' line. You should probably see a doctor, and then avoid direct contact of your skin with the hydrangea in the future.


Hydrangea arborescens

Hydrangea arborescens

Hydrangea quercifolia

Hydrangea quercifolia

 

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Plant ID of unknown purchased plant from Boise ID
June 24, 2012 - Hi! I bought a tree that the sales person didnt know what it was. I thought it was a cherry tree and now after about 3-4 yrs I know it is but..How do I know if it is an ornamental tree or real fruit t...
view the full question and answer

Are bald cypress cones toxic to dogs?
October 27, 2013 - Are bald cypress tree seed pods poisonous? to dogs? We just got a rescue dog and we go out in the yard with her. But now that we are into fall and the pods are falling. She goes right to them. Are...
view the full question and answer

Is Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine) known to cause skin irritation
July 23, 2013 - Is Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata L.) known to cause a rash? We are trying to identify the source of a rash-after-gardening, and have not seen any of the big three (poison ivy, poison oak, poison suma...
view the full question and answer

Are palm leaves poisonous?
August 25, 2009 - I live in a second story house surronded by various types of palm trees on the west coast of Florida. My 1 year old son crawls on the decks and tries to taste all of the palm leaves that sneak through...
view the full question and answer

Drought-tolerant plants that are non-toxic to dogs
May 10, 2010 - I am looking for drought-tolerant native plants non-poisonious to dogs. We are putting gardens in an area the dog has access to, and she likes to sample the darndest things. South side of the house,...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center