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
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

Can animals eat bottlebrush buckeye without being poisoned?
June 13, 2013 - Can deer, bear and wild turkey and squirrels eat the nuts and leaves from the bottlebrush buckeye shrub without being posioned by it.
view the full question and answer

Horse-friendly plants for Powell OH
September 24, 2010 - I am looking for horse friendly plants, i.e., shrubs, trees, bushes, etc. that can be planted in wet area in Ohio. Thank you in advance for your assistance.
view the full question and answer

Hardy plants for a narrow yard in Illinois
July 28, 2008 - I have an area in my yard that is approx 35 feet by 5 feet that is shaded on the east by a 4 ft fence and on the west by the house and above by trees. It slopes off to the neighbors yard (so doesn't ...
view the full question and answer

Safe grazing for donkeys and goats from Osteen FL
June 30, 2012 - I am having a very difficult time trying to find shrubs, hedges, plants, flowers, or trees etc. that are safe for donkeys and goats. We live in Zone 9 and have a small farm. I've had to pull every ...
view the full question and answer

Beneficial characteristics of Phytolacca americana (Pokeweed)
May 21, 2013 - I have a surprise Polk weed plant growing in my back yard, does it have any beneficial uses,and if not, how best to eradicate it. Thank you.
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