Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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 - April 28, 2010

From: Moultrie, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: A stinging plant in Moultrie, GA?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, I was walking along in my lawn in some flip-flops and my foot barely grazed my ankle. As soon as it had happened, I felt this horrible pain, like a million tiny, invisible splinters were in me, and the pain wouldn't leave for a very long time. I've searched every where about it but I can't seem to identify it. Please help!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants certainly hopes that you sought medical attention before you wrote to us. What were you referring to when you wrote; "I've searched everywhere about it, but I can't seem to identify it"?

My colleagues and I here at the Wildflower Center have come up with three possible scenarios. Since this is the Wildflower Center, we'll deal with the plant part first.

There is a plant that grows in Georgia known as the Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) . It is covered with very small stinging hairs that contain formic acid  (the same formic acid that is in ant stings). Brushing against the plant releases the formic acid on the skin and causes the symtoms you described. The nettle is a fairly large plant that should be visible in your lawn. Since you implicated your flip-flop in this episode, perhaps you steped on the plant outside your lawn, and got some formic acid on the flip-flop which transfered it to your ankle with a grazing blow.

The other two scenarios exonerate plants and point to two insects as possible culprits: these are the caterpillar stages of the Southern Flannel Moth and the Saddle Back Moth. Both of these have hairs or spines that contain a venom that can be very painful when it comes in contact with human skin, but causes more serious symtoms than the formic acid. The flip-flop would play a similar role in this scenario.

 

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
April 06, 2010 - In spot in the garden where tomatoes grew last this year, previous to planting what looks to me like a shamrock plant came up until it bloomed. Now it looks like some of the fuschia plants only the le...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
October 23, 2008 - We live near Milwaukee Wisconsin. This summer a 5' plant grew by itself in the middle of my flower bed. It has elongated oval green leaves, but its the flowers that are exceptional. They are long,...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification, Chinese Lantern
September 06, 2007 - I have a plant growing along my fenceline that I am unsure of what it is. Some ppl have said it is a rare Chinese Lantern plant. I looked that up and it doesn't match. The plant right now sits about ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 24, 2010 - Purchased foliage plant - no one knows its name. Leaves (stems) are bright green and 10" tall. Has "babies" like a spider plant but leaves (stems) are wider and thicker. Has a "rib" to them in...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 30, 2007 - We found this plant or something or other in our yard, in the area we found it usually stays wet and it was behind a old tree that was done. It has three big green leaves with a white stem that kind ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.