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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.

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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.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - October 18, 2013

From: Torrance , CA
Region: California
Topic: Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Injury from non-native Canary Palm from Torrance CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I got stuck in the eye a yr ago by a Phoenix canariensis. It went through my retina and through the integral chamber and put a stamp on my lense. There was no room for any more err without causing blindness. I have been seeing my eye doctor for a yr now and my vision is still not the same. Can you tell me anything about these plants being poisonous or any other people you know who have experienced this. I had immediate treatment of antibiotic but ever since my injured eye does not tract the same as my good eye. I'm now trying to do my own research. Thank you for any help you can give

ANSWER:

Ouch! We are so sorry. We are gardeners, not doctors, so it sounds like you did the right thing initially. The Canary Palm is native to the Canary Islands (thus the name) so Mr. Smarty Plants does not know much about the plant itself, since it is out of our realm of expertise, that being plants native to North America.

But we  did search around and try to find the answer to your specific question and found no reference to allergies or poisonous parts. Here is an article from Dryad Musings on specific damage that can accrue from the plant, apparently from personal experience on the part of the writer. From Dave's Garden, here are some pictures and descriptions of Dangerous Palms, which scared the daylights out of us. Scroll down the page to find pictures and discussion of Phoenix canariensis.

We feel (totally a non-educated guess) that your eye was really the target of blunt (or rather, sharp) trauma from the thorn and, personanally, would advise you stay with medical advice from those that are professionals. If you didn't get the kind of results you hoped for from your first doctor, we would suggest you seek a second opinion, but not one from plant people. Our only valid advice would be to stay away from the darn things.

 

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