En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Identity of night-glowing object in tree in New Hampshire
August 02, 2013 - I know this sounds crazy but last night when my husband stepped outside he noticed a purplish glow in one of the trees. At first he thought some kind of animal but when throwing a rock at it it did no...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on epiphyllums
March 25, 2005 - I don't have a digital cameria, but I hope you can identify my plants easily by description. I believe they are called something similar to the word "epithelium". They look like a "mother-in-la...
view the full question and answer

Name of epiphyte growing on oak trees
June 15, 2006 - Please tell me what the epiphyte growing on the oak trees is.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
April 05, 2009 - Today I was at Woodlawn Gardens, home of Nelly Custis, granddaughter to George Washington. There was a flowering plant there that had green (yes green) bell shaped flowers and very dark green leaves....
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 11, 2011 - This plant will grow 12-15 feet or more in height in the rural areas of Ellis County south of Dallas. In a fractal manner, stems grow out of the stalk and then from the stems. The leaves are green, th...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center