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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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Wednesday - December 02, 2009

From: Denham Springs, LA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Does the tip of the agave contain poison from Denham Spring LA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I bent over to pick something up and got stabbed in the head with the point of a agave plant. It is about 15 years old and I measured the point-it is right at an inch long. My head did bleed and it burns even ofter fifteen or twenty minutes. Is this a poisonous plant and should I contact my doctor or just wait till I feel anything out of the ordinary?

ANSWER:

We're going to assume you have an Agave americana (American century plant) or closely related native agave. We don't have to tell you that these plants know how to defend themselves, but we don't think you've been poisoned. When we are asked about removing or pruning agaves, we always advise goggles, long sleeves, long pants and heavy leather gloves, because there is a liquid that can be released by cutting the leaves which can be very irritating. We also advise those that are planning to plant agaves that they clip off those formidable tips that might be in contact with passers-by, including the gardener, children or pets.  On the other hand, we are not doctors, and we can't see the wound. We are assuming you washed the wound, to avoid any pollutants that might have been on the tip getting into your system. However, we still think you should contact your doctor, tell him what we told you, make sure you know if any of the spine is still in your head, and if it is still burning. The doctor might want to look at it just as a precaution. We have no close-up pictures of the spines of the Agave americana, so we are giving you some views of the closely-related  Agave havardiana (Havard's century plant).

 

From the Image Gallery


Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

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