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
5 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

Is Chilopsis linearis poisonous to dogs in Midland, TX?
June 04, 2011 - Is any variety of Chilopsis linearis (particularly bubba bubba) poisonous to animals? I'm thinking about using it as a source of shade for multiple dog kennels in west Texas.
view the full question and answer

Plant with dark black/purple berries in a cluster
November 06, 2012 - Today at our local dog park we noticed a bush/vine that's been growing up the fence is producing berries. It didn't flower at all. The berries look to have started out green and now are changing t...
view the full question and answer

Plants for water park
January 03, 2013 - Hi, I usually have no problem locating the right species for a given situation, but I may need some advice for this. I am looking for plants -- from annual & perennial flowers to shrubs and small t...
view the full question and answer

Is Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine) known to cause skin irritation
July 23, 2013 - Is Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata L.) known to cause a rash? We are trying to identify the source of a rash-after-gardening, and have not seen any of the big three (poison ivy, poison oak, poison suma...
view the full question and answer

Is wild foxglove poisonous to dogs from Liberty TX
May 05, 2012 - Is penstemon cobaea (wild foxglove)poisonous to pets, specifically dogs. I was thinking about adding this to my native Texan wild flower section of my backyard.
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