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
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

Vines to Complement a Fence
April 10, 2012 - I have a 3' weathered picket fence that I want to plant a flowering vine on part of it. The vine must be perennial, tolerate full sun and low watering. Is there anything besides trumpet, cross vine, ...
view the full question and answer

Which Aristolochia species are toxic to pipevine swallowtail larvae
May 27, 2009 - In a May 30, 2008 question regarding the toxicity of certain Aristolochia species to pipevine swallowtail larvae, I had heard the same from at a talk from the curator of the Cockrell Butterfly Center ...
view the full question and answer

Care of Passiflora incarnata or Passiflora coccinea
July 04, 2007 - Hi- I have two passionflowers, one red, one purple. I live in upstate NY. They grow very well up onto trellises, however, they have stopped producing flowers. Both are planted in pots (fairly large)...
view the full question and answer

Identification of vine with hair-like prickles
January 04, 2013 - Trying to find out what kind of vine I ran into yesterday while climbing a deer stand. While pushing limbs and vines down from around me, I noticed hair-like thorns stuck in my sleeves and hands. This...
view the full question and answer

Identification of a vine in Tennessee
June 14, 2014 - I have a beautiful vine with clusters approximately 70 feet All the way up a tree in a heavily wooded area. It seems to be evergreen or semi- evergreen. Can you help identify?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center