Explore Plants

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
    
 

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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - September 23, 2013

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Poisonous Plants, Problem Plants
Title: Plant-related skin rashes from Round Rock TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have been plagued with persistent skin rashes this summer, and it is happening with plants that have never bothered me before, for example, red yucca. The dermatologist says it is a plant reaction, although 4 different doctors did tests to rule out scary systemic issues. My question is this: Is it possible that the drought has caused the essential oils in plants to be more concentrated, and hence more likely to cause a skin reaction? (Just trying to figure out why my garden suddenly hates me).

ANSWER:

We think your theory is as good as anyone else's on that subject. We did some searching on the Internet and found this article from Science Day on Drought Increasing Challenge to Hydraulic Systems of Plants. Another article, this one from the Texas A&M Forest Service, discusses The Effect of Drought Stress on Trees and Landscape Plants. While these articles both cite the problems plants have with reduced moisture in their branches, the point was also made that the stomata of the plants would close to preserve moisture, therefore reducing the chance of your coming into contact with that moisture.

So, we went on to look at the possibilities of sensitivities to allergens. Someone who has never been allergic to poison ivy or insect stings can have a reaction to one of those, and from then on become sensitized to those allergens. From the National Institute of Health, we found an article on The Sensitization Capacity of Plants on this subject, which included this line: "As a practical consequence, patients suffering from allergic contact dermatitis due to Compositae species are strictly requested to avoid contact with the offending species and all related species to prevent recurrences of their skin lesions."

Since you did not say which plants you suspected, and probably neither you nor your doctor can identify the precise culprit, we are going to call on our alter ego, Mr. Common Sense, for some advice. If you suspect something you are coming in contact with, and you don't know what it is or how to stop it, the best advice is to protect yourself. Long sleeves and pants, leather gloves or even heavy-duty rubber gloves, all of which should be carefully cleaned after a single wearing. We fully realize how hot and inconvenient that will be, but consider, would you rather sweat or itch?

 

More Problem Plants Questions

Live oak sprouts in Austin
August 01, 2010 - How can I control the hundreds of live oak sprouts our lovely trees are throwing off? We recently landscaped with rain gardens and the related drainage ditches; they are filled with these very happy ...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating and replacing Tradescantia species
July 03, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I need advice. I recently figured out my 10 month old dog is highly allergic to Tradescantia sp, commonly known as the Spiderworts, and "Wandering Jew" which covers about h...
view the full question and answer

Invasive thistles in wildflower field from Dripping Springs TX
February 17, 2014 - How to get rid of "native" thistles.. I have a large natural field that used to grow a variety of wildflowers, but in 2011 and 2012 it was taken over by thistles. I'm sure they are "native" Texas...
view the full question and answer

Identification of vine with hair-like prickles
January 04, 2013 - Trying to find out what kind of vine I ran into yesterday while climbing a deer stand. While pushing limbs and vines down from around me, I noticed hair-like thorns stuck in my sleeves and hands. This...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of Adams needle (Yucca filamentosa)
June 24, 2009 - My friend is changing her flower beds around and is wanting to eliminate an Adam's needle that has been there for several years. She has already dug it up and now is trying to get rid of all the new...
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.