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

Planting Mountain Laurel grown from seeds in Argentina
April 09, 2014 - Hello, I was transferred to Cordoba, Argentina 2 years ago from San Antonio, the climate hereis similar to S. TX, anyway I brought some mountain laurel seeds with me and they have been in 2 gallon pot...
view the full question and answer

Is scarlet buckeye (Aesculus pavia) poisonous?
December 01, 2008 - Is a scarlet buckeye poisonous? Anna
view the full question and answer

Are Viguiera dentate leaves toxic to dogs?
November 26, 2014 - Many dogs on the Turkey Creek Nature Trail in Emma Long Metropolitan Park love to snack on the leaves of the Viguiera Dentata plants. The leaves SEEM to be harmless. I am writing to request informat...
view the full question and answer

Are any cherry trees poisonous from Clovis CA?
April 30, 2011 - Are there some cherry trees that are poisonous? if so, how do you identify them?
view the full question and answer

Fast growing trees in Idaho
April 10, 2008 - I want to plant fast-growing trees on my property in Idaho. What trees are poisonous to horses and dogs? I am particularly interested in the Royal Empress (Paulowmia) tree and the dogwood 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