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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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!

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Saturday - August 08, 2009

From: LaPorte, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Medicinal Plants, Problem Plants
Title: Treating stings from stinging nettles in Indiana
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How can I remove hairlike thorns (as from nettle-type weed)? My hands react within 24 hours with swelling and pain, esp in morning. In past when I have then been able to locate the offending thorn, the symptoms disappear within 24 hours. This time, despite plastic gloves, I felt the sting but am now unable to see any thorns, they are so tiny. Is there anything one could use to soak out microscopic thorns, a balm or salts? Or any other remedy? Had steroids in past but did not go away til I could remove thorn.

ANSWER:

We are gardeners, not doctors, and we would not presume to make any treatment suggestions. Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) is a fascinating plant, edible (after being cooked), used for generations as a herbal medicine for various ailments, and with spines that can inject a chemical cocktail, including histamines, seratonin and formic acid, the same stuff many venomous insects carry.  We found a WikiHow website, How to Treat a Sting from a Stinging Nettle. Remember, these are not our recommendations, just ideas you can try at your own risk.

We do have a couple of recommendations, however. The first is, try to eliminate the plant from your landscape. The second is to use leather gloves. And see a doctor.

Pictures of Urtica dioica (stinging nettle)

 

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