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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 - January 04, 2013

From: Vicksburg, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Problem Plants, Vines
Title: Identification of vine with hair-like prickles
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

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 vine had little green pods, slightly larger than a raisin, with those kinda yellow hair-like thornes approximately 3/8" long. They immediately stick into whatever touches them. Got one in my eye..no joke!

ANSWER:

Your vine is still a bit of a mystery to me, but I have one good possibility, Sicyos angulatus (One-seed burr cucumber).   You can see more photos from Connecticut Botanical Society and here is more information from the University of Michigan's Plant Diversity Website and Illinois Wildflowers.  None of these sites talks about it being a prickly threat to humans, but I can see how it might be if you encountered it while pushing through thick undergrowth.

Here are a few other prickly vines that you might run into (literally) in your area, but they don't match your description as well as the burr cucumber does.  You should do your best to avoid contact with them, however!

Rubus trivialis (Dewberry)

Smilax bona-nox (Saw greenbrier)

Smilax tamnoides (Bristly greenbriar) and here are photos from Virginia Tech.

Smilax glauca (Cat greenbrier) and here are photos from University of Wisconsin's Freckmann Herbarium

Smilax rotundifolia (Roundleaf greenbrier) and here are photos.

Tragia cordata (Heartleaf noseburn) has stinging hairs on its stems and leaves but only grows to about 3 feet.  It delivers a nasty sting, however, when you touch it.   Here are photos from Missouri Plants.

Tragia urticifolia (Nettleleaf noseburn) is another short vine with stinging hairs.   Here are photos from Missouri Plants.

 

From the Image Gallery


One-seed burr cucumber
Sicyos angulatus

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