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

Identification of vine in Louisiana
July 06, 2011 - I have two vines in my backyard. I've looked at pictures of each and they both keep coming up "virginia creeper." However, both are different. Neither causes an allergic reaction. One has leaflets ...
view the full question and answer

Plant ID from Bloomsdale MO
August 19, 2010 - I have found a plant growing on the side of the road in a weedy area, looks like a poker flower, the plant has Red/orange seed pods growing to a point. no flowers right now. grows on a stem very much...
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

Questions about lilies from Trussville AL
January 10, 2012 - How can I tell what kind of lily I have? Or better yet,what is the difference between Asiatic lily and a daylily? I also noticed someone asked about Cahaba lily. Just want to let you know I grow Caha...
view the full question and answer

ID of plant from florist in Moorestown NJ
November 21, 2009 - I recently purchased a cut stem from the local florist for an autumn flower arrangement. The leaves are very, very small and bamboo-like in looks. They are not oval and are 1/8 inches long. The bra...
view the full question and answer

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