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
1 rating

Wednesday - July 21, 2010

From: Santa Rosa, CA
Region: California
Topic: Vines
Title: Rash from non-native potato vines
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Here in No. CA we have two potato vines that over the last 5-6 years have flourished gloriously. Just this year, we went to prune them (as we normally do once or twice a year), and both my husband and I broke out in a moderately itchy rash. By washing the affected areas with mechanic's soap, and then applying anti-itch medication, the rash was relieved. As of now, any skin exposure to the vines produces this rash. Is it possible that the plants' chemical nature changed (it's been a very wet, rainy year), or is it "just us"? Any information you have would be most welcome!

ANSWER:

When you say sweet potato vine, I'm assuming you mean Ipomoea batatas.  It originated probably in Central and South America and has been spread all over the world as people colonized new areas.  Our expertise and focus here at the Wildflower Center is with plants native to North America and this plant really doesn't qualify as such.  However, we will try to help you solve this mystery. Searching in several toxic plant databases I found only one member of the Genus Ipomoea that is listed as being mildly toxic, Ipomoea tricolor (morning glory)—ingesting the seeds produces hallucinations.

I suppose that there is a small chance that you are allergic to the plant itself.  The Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD) reports some instances of dermatitis from contact with some members of the genus.  However, there is probably a better chance that you are be allergic to something that was on the plant.  For instance, in the Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD) they describe a "rash and burning sensation" after handling Ipomoea pes-carprae (beach morning glory) that was infected with a rust fungus, Endophyllum kaernbachii, in the Family Pucciniaceae.  If you live near an area where Toxicodendron diversilobum (Pacific poison oak) grows and either you or your neighbors have a dog that might have spent a bit of time in it and then walked through the potato vine, enough of the oil from the poison oak might have been transfered for you to come in contact with while you were pruning the vine. Whatever the source of the rash, I would advise you to wear long sleeves, long trousers, and rubber gloves that next time you prune them.

 

More Vines Questions

Fungus Spots on Native Bush Honeysuckle
December 03, 2010 - My native bush honeysuckle plants that I have along my back fence have leaves that are turning yellow with spots. It appears to be a type of fungus, but not powdery mildew. Any suggestions as to what ...
view the full question and answer

Flowering Shade Plant for California
February 21, 2016 - I have a house north facing that has a "flower bed" in front that unfortunately is shaded 100% of the time. There are roses in the bed currently (they came with the house) but they do poorly. We are...
view the full question and answer

Is Convolvulus equitans poisonous?
August 22, 2015 - Hello, Can you tell me if convolvulus equitans is poisonous? If so, can you tell me how poisonous and which parts are poisonous? I am considering putting this in my backyard but I have a dog and an...
view the full question and answer

Passiflora and Leucophyllum together in Texas
April 23, 2015 - I've got a Passiflora incarnata that has self-propagated around a cenizo sage. My question is, will the passionflower vine choke out or otherwise damage the cenizo? Do I need to cut back the vine? ...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen vine for trellis in Fredricksburg, Texas
March 27, 2011 - Hello, and thank you so much for this service. I am looking for a non-deciduous vine to plant on the east side of my house. I have already put in a trellis, now I need to know what to plant on it. ...
view the full question and answer

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