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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - June 06, 2012

From: Randolph, VT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Poisonous Plants
Title: Identification of plant with orange sap that glows at night
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I was just pulling up a plant and noticed that its sap was a kind of orange then I noticed it glowing orange at night. What kind of plant is this and is it dangerous?

ANSWER:

There are many plants with orange/yellow sap and since you didn't describe the plant itself, I can't really identify it. I did search for sap that glows/luminesces/fluoresces at night but found only one reference. Chelidonium majus (Greater celadine), a native of Europe, has orange sap, is considered invasive and highly toxic and, according to one source, is luminescent.  This is the only plant that I found with orange sap that is reported to be luminescent, but there are other candidates with orange sap.

Another plant that has orange sap is also considered to be the most toxic plant native to North America—the deadly Cicuta species (water hemlocks)Both Cicuta bulbifera (Bulblet-bearing water hemlock) and Cicuta maculata (Spotted water hemlock) grow in Vermont.  You can check the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System to read about the toxicity of other Cicuta species.  If this is the plant you pulled up, you will probably want to be sure it doesn't regrow and be very cautious handling it.

All of the members of the Family Papaveraceae (Poppy Family) have yellow-orange or milky white sap.  Your plant could have been either of these that happens to grow in Vermont.  The plants in the poppy family that grow in Vermont are:

Argemone mexicana (Mexican prickly poppy) is mildly toxic.

Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot) is highly toxic.

There are, no doubt, other plants with orange sap.  If you have a photo of the plant, you can visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

 


 

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