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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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Friday - September 25, 2009

From: Kansas City, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Are freshwater sponges poisonous if eaten by a dog?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Are freshwater sponges, native to Missouri, poisonous if eaten by a dog?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants expertise is in native plants, not native animals.  It is true that freshwater sponges can look like plants because they often have algae growing on them, making them green.  In fact, sponges were thought to be plants until the 19th century.  Sponges, however, aren't plants—they are animals, members of the Kingdom Animalia and Phylum Porifera.  You can read about freshwater sponges in A Field Guide to Aquatic Phenomena from the University of Maine and from the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Illinois). As to whether they are toxic to dogs are any other animal, not too much is known about their toxicity.  Principles and Methods of Toxicology edited by Andrew Wallace Hayes (5th edition, CRC Press, 2007) says that a couple of freshwater sponges from Australia and Europe can cause skin irritations and even more serious symptoms, including death. You might try to identify your freshwater sponge and then search the internet for any toxicity associated with its particular species.

 

 

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