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
1 rating

Tuesday - August 27, 2013

From: Ellicott City, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification, Poisonous Plants
Title: Identity of plant with thorns in Maryland
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Maryland and was walking in the woods one day when I accidentally stumbled in to a thorn bush. I don't remember what color the thorns where or very much about the plant in general but I do know it hurt more than a normal thorn bush, and it kept hurting. It felt like it had an irritant on the thorns that made the cuts from it swell red, itchy, and painful. That went away after awhile but today I found two, large red dots on the side of my foot that had seemed to get bigger and more painful. I checked all insects and arachnids in the area but found none that could have caused it. Could it be the thorns? If so, do you know what kind of thorns they are? Thanks Mr. Smarty Plants.

ANSWER:

We have had questions before about plants with poisonous thorns.  So far as I know there are no plants in North America with thorns that are poisonous or have an irritating substance associated with them.   I am going to refer you to the most recent of those questions which also has references to earlier questions.  You haven't given us enough information to identify what plant the thorns you encountered were on.  There are plenty of plants with thorns in Maryland—Smilax bona-nox (Saw greenbrier), Rosa carolina (Carolina rose), Aralia spinosa (Devil's walkingstick), and Rubus allegheniensis (Allegheny blackberry) to name just a few—but without a description of the plant I can't even begin to identify the source of the thorns.

There are at least two possible explanations for the initial red, itchy, painful results of your encounter with the thorny plants and the subsequent red spots on your foot:

  • Dirt or other sources of bacteria were on the thorns and were transferred to you when the thorns pierced your foot and this caused the irritation and possibly an infection.
  • The tips of the thorns were broken off in your skin and are still there causing the irritation.

Either way, if your foot is still sore and painful, you should see a doctor to treat the problem.

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Local native plant for grave marker in Washington
December 30, 2005 - Dear wildflower expert, Our friendís dog died, and is buried in western Washington, near the town of Monroe. My wife is from central Texas, and thought a Texas perennial would be a nice marker. ...
view the full question and answer

Is Poison ivy always rooted in the ground?
November 11, 2015 - Does Poison ivy on a tree always start at the ground and climb up the tree or can it start producing its vine and leaves by itself at the top of the tree or middle?
view the full question and answer

Is mulch from hackberry and chinaberry trees safe for flowerbeds?
September 17, 2014 - We had to remove several large hackberry and china berry trees. Is its mulch safe to use in garden and in flower beds?
view the full question and answer

Miami gardener needs to know toxicity of Cordia boissieri
October 12, 2010 - Hello. I have a question about Cordia boissieri. Is it toxic for humans (all parts of the plant)? I want to plant it in South Florida, in an area with children.
view the full question and answer

Is Lemon Cypress toxic?
August 15, 2012 - Is the Lemon Cypress toxic?
view the full question and answer

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