En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Are palm tree thorns poisonous?

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
4 ratings

Friday - January 27, 2012

From: Naples, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Are palm tree thorns poisonous?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Almost 3 weeks ago I trimmed the fronds of my pygmy date palm. The tip of a thorn was stuck in my finger. I pulled it out. The side of my finger is still very painful and my finger is swollen. I can't see or feel any thorn but the entry spot is still visible and hurts. Is this thorn poisonous. I am experiencing what I would consider arthritis like symptoms. Is this normal?

ANSWER:

Phoenix roebelenii (pygmy date palm) is native to southeast Asia and, since our focus and expertise are with plants native to North America, not really something we can tell you much about. We can, however, guide you to resources where you can read about the dermatological effects caused by various species of palms. The Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD) from Cardiff University in Wales offers an assessment of many of the palms in the Family Arecaceae (syn. Palmae). You will note that their introduction page cites a study in Panama from 1943 that says palm frond thorn injuries (palm species not named) are noted for causing infections. They don't mention Phoenix roebelenii specifically but they do have an entry for Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island date palm) that says:

"Punctures by sharp thorns on the petioles of these palms are commonly experienced by nursery and landscape gardeners in Florida.  The spine-tip may be broken off and retained in the wound. Such material is not revealed by x-ray. A chemical irritant may also be present on the thorns."

The entry for Phoenix loureiri (also called Pigmy Date Palm) doesn't mention a chemical irritant, but does say:

"Punctures by sharp thorns on the petioles of these palms are commonly experienced by nursery workers and landscape gardeners in Florida."

So, there is some chance that the thorn of Phoenix roebelenii (in the same genus as the two mentioned above) has some chemical irritant associated with it. However, whether it does or not, puncture wounds of any kind are notorious for becoming infected. This is why it is important to remove the thorn as soon as possible and thoroughly clean the wound. Read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about puncture wounds.

If the wound in your finger is still bothering you, I suggest that you see a doctor since you may have an infection.

 

  

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Safety of hyrbrid and non-native trees for dogs and horses from Lawton OK
March 25, 2013 - Are Arrowwood Viburnum tree, Sargent Crabapple tree & the Washington Hawthorn tree safe for dogs & horses?
view the full question and answer

Dogs developing allergic skin problems in Waco TX
February 24, 2011 - We have 2 West Highland White terriers..since we moved 2 yrs. ago, they have developed TERRIBLE skin problems at our new home, about 5 miles from our old home, in Waco. What contact plants, shrub...
view the full question and answer

Plant for privacy hedge in Oklahoma that is not poisonous to dogs
April 01, 2012 - Hello! I am looking to put a privacy hedge fence in my yard. I love the look of American Holly, however, I have a dog who eats everything so I worry that this will not be a wise choice with the b...
view the full question and answer

Cutting back non-native oleanders affected by freeze in Austin
January 30, 2010 - After the last hard freeze makes my oleanders look dead. Can I cut them down to the ground this time of year?
view the full question and answer

Is non-native cotoneaster poisonous to goats from Eureka CA
August 19, 2011 - I have heard that cotoneaster is poisonous to goats and other animals. We are trying to get rid of it in our yard, but I was hoping we could use goats to eat it back. What are our options in removin...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center