Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - February 16, 2015

From: Sun City West, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Problem Plants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Skin Reaction form Cochineal on Prickly Pear
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

I have severe burning and peeling skin on pads of fingers after touching "white stuff" on a prickly pear. White stuff tuned purple then burned skin even after washing hands. Skin has been cracking and bleeding for 2 months.

ANSWER:

Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer eplaining what that white stuff is. Briefly, there is a small insect inside that white stuff called cochineal. The red or purple juice you found has been used as a dye for hundreds of years. It is the dye used in garments worn by the popes and in the British redcoats. It is still used in cosmetics and as a food coloring, particularly in Europe. At one time it was Mexico's second largest export product behind silver.

But, you probably don't care that much about all that while your fingers are burning and bleeding.

A quick Google search for "skin allergy to cochineal" brought up a number of sites that describe allergic reactions to cochineal or red dye or carmine or carminic acid. Mr. Smarty Plants has never experienced the problems you describe so I really can"t offer any advice otherr than to recommend you visit a dermatologist.

 

More Problem Plants Questions

Bluebonnets and weeds in Burleson TX
March 31, 2010 - I have lots of blue bonnets growing in my yard but they are overcome with weeds. What can I use to eliminate the weeds without killing the bluebonnets?
view the full question and answer

Identification of invasive plant
March 26, 2010 - I have found an invasive plant species in Martindale, Texas that I would like to identify for family members. It is taking over their pasture and is difficult to eliminate. It has not bloomed yet but...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of skunk cabbage in Hopedale OH
April 22, 2010 - How can someone get rid of skunk cabbage?
view the full question and answer

Eliminating non-native invasive Asian jasmine in Temple TX
February 06, 2010 - Hello, behind my backyard fence there is a large growth (about 300 to 400 sq feet) of Asian jasmine. It was planted by previous owners. It prevents growth of native plants like holly. What is the prac...
view the full question and answer

Are there prescribed burn professionals in central Texas?
July 12, 2012 - I am looking for someone to hire for a controlled hillside burn. Can you recommend someone to hire?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.