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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.

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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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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!

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Monday - June 21, 2010

From: New Paris, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Poisonous weeds in Bedford County, PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am battling my second bad round of poison in a month, this time on my face and in my left eye. It's awful. Problem is, I have looked and looked for poison ivy, oak and sumac around my neighborhood, and haven't spotted it yet. What other types of poisonous weeds could be in my flower beds or in the empty lots across from my trailer. I live in Bedford County, - south central PA.

ANSWER:

You have already exhausted the three plants that we would be able to name right away that could be causing your problem. Since we are in Texas, it would be difficult to speak from personal experience, and while our Native Plant Database will tell us that a plant has poisonous parts, we can't sort on that characteristic to narrow down our options. We have two suggestions for you that should get you much quicker help than we can give you. First, there is a University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants website.  Explore that site, following directions, and perhaps you can get pictures; they probably are not all native to Pennsylvania, but then, the plant that is causing you problems may be an escaped non-native, as well.

Many plants beyond the "big three" you already identified have saps or flowers or mini-thorns that can be painful for a person who is sensitive to plant toxins.  We believe your best source of help could be the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office for Bedford County.  There is contact information on the website, and they are much closer to the vegetation in your area than we are.

The last recommendation that we would make is that you should be very careful when you go outside, at least until you identify the culprit and learn how to avoid or destroy it. Long sleeves, long pants, leather gloves, and no rubbing your eyes with or without the gloves. If you have pets that go out into the garden or the vacant lot, they may need baths more often. The irritant might not get through their coats to them, but it can surely get from their coats to your hands or legs or lap. 

 

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