En Español

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
3 ratings

Thursday - December 01, 2011

From: Knoxville, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: North American Plants with Poisonous Thorns
Answered by: Becky Ruppel

QUESTION:

Are there any plants in North America that possess poisonous thorns?

ANSWER:

In North America there are few plants that have poisonous thorns.  The members of the Solanum (nightshade) genus have thorns and are reported to cause injuries that are slow to heal due to poisonous thorns.  Many members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) have many poisonous parts (i.e. leaves, stems, fruit, roots, seeds) that cause severe irritation to mammals.  The members of this family are widely distributed across North America. 

Another group of plants that have poisonous “thorns” is Stinging Nettles.  They have tiny hairs on the underside of their leaves that ‘sting’ and cause skin irritation and a burning sensation if they are brushed against. 

Finally, most plants that have thorns can cause mechanical injury, and some injuries result in pieces of the thorn breaking off in the skin.  It would seem as if these plants had poison, but in fact, the swelling and redness around a wound is caused by a foreign object logged in the skin. 

Considering plants outside of North America there are several plants from Africa that have poisonous thorns such as Gymnosporia buxifolia or Dichrostachys spp

I acquired my information about thorny plants from the Botanical Dermatology Database.  There is lots of information there if you would like to read further about the affects of plants with thorns. 

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Hedgerow plants non-toxic to horses
April 07, 2012 - What would be a good, fast growing, hedgerow plant that is NON-POISONOUS TO HORSES? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Poisonous Plants
October 27, 2004 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I wonder who among the wonderful staff at the Wildflower Center can answer this. I occasionally get requests for information on toxic or irritating plants. Beyond the obvious ...
view the full question and answer

Shrub to scrren house from dust from gravel road
July 28, 2013 - HI: We live in the foothills of Dobbins, California (2 hours North of Sacramento, Ca). I live on a gravel dirt road with traffic that goes about 45 miles an hour. When they drive by our house it lo...
view the full question and answer

White and Violet Flower in Missouri
March 17, 2016 - When I was small I came into contact with a plant that gave me cold sweats, chills and hallucinations. All I remember was it bore a single flower with a little white and a lot of violet. It had a dark...
view the full question and answer

Information on Royal Empress tree
May 01, 2008 - Would like to have some information on the royal empress tree; it is a non-native tree.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center