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
3 ratings

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


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?


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

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Plants for 16th floor of condo in Panama City Beach, FL
May 30, 2012 - My husband and I have a COSI on the west end of Panama City Beach, Fl. I love plants and flowers and live out of state. Our condo is on the 16th floor and directly on the gulf. What type of plants ...
view the full question and answer

Dealing with beetles feeding on cholla cactus
June 20, 2010 - Hi Mr. Smarty Pants, I bought a Cylindropuntia imbricata from the Wildflower center and it was growing like crazy. I recently noticed a lot of beetles feeding on it. Some are black and some are gra...
view the full question and answer

Care for century plant
June 06, 2007 - What is the best way to care for a Century Plant? We were given one as a gift and don't know what to do with it.
view the full question and answer

Growing Conditions for Yucca cernua
October 22, 2011 - Nodding Yucca or Yucca cernua: I bought many lovely plants at the Wildflower Center sale on Friday, among them, a Nodding Yucca or Yucca cernua. 24 of the 25 plants I bought are already in the grou...
view the full question and answer

Can I save my century plant by cutting the flowering stalk in Austin, TX? Probably not.
April 28, 2010 - Our century plant is starting to sprout it's flower (four feet). If we cut it down can we save the plant? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

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