Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
1 rating

Wednesday - July 21, 2010

From: Santa Rosa, CA
Region: California
Topic: Vines
Title: Rash from non-native potato vines
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Here in No. CA we have two potato vines that over the last 5-6 years have flourished gloriously. Just this year, we went to prune them (as we normally do once or twice a year), and both my husband and I broke out in a moderately itchy rash. By washing the affected areas with mechanic's soap, and then applying anti-itch medication, the rash was relieved. As of now, any skin exposure to the vines produces this rash. Is it possible that the plants' chemical nature changed (it's been a very wet, rainy year), or is it "just us"? Any information you have would be most welcome!

ANSWER:

When you say sweet potato vine, I'm assuming you mean Ipomoea batatas.  It originated probably in Central and South America and has been spread all over the world as people colonized new areas.  Our expertise and focus here at the Wildflower Center is with plants native to North America and this plant really doesn't qualify as such.  However, we will try to help you solve this mystery. Searching in several toxic plant databases I found only one member of the Genus Ipomoea that is listed as being mildly toxic, Ipomoea tricolor (morning glory)—ingesting the seeds produces hallucinations.

I suppose that there is a small chance that you are allergic to the plant itself.  The Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD) reports some instances of dermatitis from contact with some members of the genus.  However, there is probably a better chance that you are be allergic to something that was on the plant.  For instance, in the Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD) they describe a "rash and burning sensation" after handling Ipomoea pes-carprae (beach morning glory) that was infected with a rust fungus, Endophyllum kaernbachii, in the Family Pucciniaceae.  If you live near an area where Toxicodendron diversilobum (Pacific poison oak) grows and either you or your neighbors have a dog that might have spent a bit of time in it and then walked through the potato vine, enough of the oil from the poison oak might have been transfered for you to come in contact with while you were pruning the vine. Whatever the source of the rash, I would advise you to wear long sleeves, long trousers, and rubber gloves that next time you prune them.

 

More Vines Questions

Plants for area near saltwater pool near Dallas
May 25, 2009 - Could you recommend perennial plants that would do well next to my saltwater pool just north of Dallas (Corinth) Texas?
view the full question and answer

Plantings for a slope from New Carrollton MD
June 27, 2012 - My house (Maryland, near DC) sits at the bottom of a south facing slope. The soil is very heavy clay. The grade is about 1:20 for about 100 feet (with a steeper part at the top). Part of the hill is i...
view the full question and answer

Non-poisonous, fragrant flowering plant and vine for Arkansas
June 17, 2009 - I would like to find a non poisonous flowering plant that smells good, that has small to moderate plant growth, that will do well in sandy soil area, shade to full sun either way. Also would like to f...
view the full question and answer

Growing native vines in pots from Houston
May 28, 2012 - I am writing in regards to your often mentioned issue of plants not doing as well in pots and in the ground. After last years drought, i moved all the plants I had that were in danger of dying of t...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of trumpet vines from Dallas
August 19, 2010 - Can you tell me about trumpet vines, can they be rooted in water? I heard they reseed at the end of their growing season.
view the full question and answer

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