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?


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
1 rating

Friday - April 06, 2012

From: Edgewater, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Sap from agave causing reactions from Edgewater FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Not only was I stuck with the century plant thorns and needle like ends when I was digging up its pups, but I also broke the carrot-like root of a few when I was transplanting and got the white sap on my gloves. I must have spread it everywhere because a few days later areas of my body and face were covered with large and small itching welts and nasty looking rashes. It took 2 weeks to clear and many tube of cortisone cream. What happened to me and could I have used something better?


We are truly sorry that you were attacked by your Century Plant. Please read this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer with some suggestions of what to do next time, if there is a next time and you haven't blown up the offending plants.

If we may add one more precaution that we often give to people who are trying to deal with poison ivy, another vigorously self-protecting plant. Not only should you wear goggles and protective clothing, (we always thought a suit of armor would be nice, but they are hot) and get out of that clothing as soon as you go in, shower, run the clothes through the laundry, and if you had on leather gloves and they are drenched, throw them away. They are very good protection but using those gloves again could mean you are continually re-exposing yourself to the sap. We feel that what you had was an allergic reaction, and using the cortisone cream was probably a good idea. However, had you gone to a doctor, he might had prescribed an antihistamine or even steroids to be taken orally. We are NOT doctors, but, boy, have we had contact allergies in our life.


From the Image Gallery

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Worms found in Agave used in tequila
February 06, 2008 - Hi, I am a writer and have been trying to find some referenced information regarding the moth larvae/'worms' associated with Agave and some mezcal beverages - specifically, Hypopta agavis, Aegiale ...
view the full question and answer

How to Control White Fungus on Prickly Pear Cactus?
July 04, 2013 - Is there any kind of spray for our prickly pear that will help with the white fungus that has appeared on it?
view the full question and answer

Trimming freeze-damaged Agave Americana in Alvarado TX
April 08, 2010 - What is the best way to trim Agave Americana cactus? The freeze this winter when it snowed has caused the leaves to die towards the bottom of the plant.
view the full question and answer

No blooms on Spineless Prickly Pear in Austin
June 07, 2012 - I've had a spineless prickly pear planted in the shade for about 3 years. It has done just fine there, but has never bloomed. I recently moved it to a full sun location(I'm in north Austin) and cove...
view the full question and answer

Seeds of agave attenuata from San Diego CA
April 16, 2012 - After the agave attenuata bloom dried up there are seeds like thing hanging on the foxtail; do I leave it until it dies or do I chop that down. Are those seeds for propagation. The leaves of the plan...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center