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?


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

Wednesday - July 22, 2009

From: Greensburg, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: What tree berries causes blisters in PA?
Answered by: Joe Marcus


This summer my family was playing with some berries picked from a tree in our backyard. They would place them in their mouths and shoot them through homemade pea-shooters. Shortly after everyone began to experience severe poison ivy like symptoms, swelling, redness, irritation, blisters etc. We were informed by the dr. that it was a poison arrowwood tree. I have searched and searched and can't find anything that matches it. It grew in tree form and had small green peas or berries.


Several plant species, both native and non-native are known as arrowwood.  The plants most often refered to by that common name are several of the Viburnum species, especially Viburnum dentatum (southern arrowwood).  Other native viburnums known as arrowwood include, Viburnum rafinesquianum (downy arrowwood), Viburnum recognitum (southern arrowwood) and Viburnum obovatum (small-leaf arrowwood)Viburnum molle, Soft-leaf viburnum is also known as Poison haw.  Other genera also include species known as arrowwood such as. Euonymus atropurpureus (burningbush).  Some non-native plants, including Frangula alnus are sometimes called arrowwood.

However, we will not be able to identify your mystery plant without good, close-up images of the leaves and fruit at a minimum.  Pictures of the whole plant and close-ups of the flowers will also be helpful. Please see the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants ID page for more detailed instructions on submitting images for identification.

Finally, we would not discount the possibility that your family was picking and pea-shooting the fruit of Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy).  It commonly grows up and through shrubs and trees and produces lots of berries.


More Poisonous Plants Questions

Is Bignonia capreolata (crossvine) poisonous?
March 18, 2012 - I need to know whether any part of Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) is poisonous. Am thinking of planting it at an Elder Day Center for people with memory problems and the director insists - no toxic ...
view the full question and answer

Is it possible to eat one nightshade berry and live?
September 16, 2012 - Can I eat one nightshade berry and live? I am 18.
view the full question and answer

Poisonous plants of Texas Bays and Estuaries
February 24, 2011 - What is a poisonous native plants of the Bay and Estuary system in Southeast Texas?
view the full question and answer

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

Are palm tree seeds toxic?
July 08, 2011 - Are palm tree seeds toxic to other plants? I have palm trees around my pool and it seems that nothing will grow very good where the old seeds are in the ground.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center