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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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Thursday - May 26, 2011

From: West Bend, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Plants causing skin irritation in West Bend WI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Is there a list of plants that cause blistering in this area? I have a friend who gets it bad every year-I find no evidence of cow parsnip or poison ivy---thanks.

ANSWER:

We could find no list of skin irritant plants specific to Wisconsin. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center specializes in plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow natively. Even if we went through our database of Wisconsin native plants, looking for skin irritant warnings, the plant that is causing the problem could very well be an introduced plant, not native to the area, and therefore not in our database. We did, however, find a very good article from Dave's Garden Plants That Irritate the Skin: Beyond Poison Ivy. This has any number of links to descriptions and pictures that you can look at and see if you recognize them.

Another interesting, but scary, article is from Contact: Poisonous Plants of the World. And one last article from Birds and Blooms: Caution: May Cause Skin Irritation.

Now, we have some not so scientific, but much more useful, suggestions.

Suggestion 1. Any time your friend is going to an area in which he/she has previously gotten these rashes, they should only go in there again with a sharp eye, long sleeves, long pants and gloves on. And all of those should be thoroughly washed immediately to prevent transfer of the irritants from the protective clothing. Or, even better, just do not go there.

Suggestion 2.  See an allergist or a dermatologist. Probably this will not be the first complaint in your area, and the medical people may very well know, or strongly suspect, what is causing the problem. They can't make a patient immune to the irritants, so see Suggestion 1. The doctor can prescribe topical relief, although they will also explore the possibility that it is a reaction to seasonal foods that have been eaten.

Suggestion 3. Contact the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Office for Washington County. These are the people that should really know what's going on in the area, and may even have a list of "don't touch" plants, native or not.

Suggestion 4. Don't scratch-it just makes it worse!

 

 

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