Are Pachypodium spines poisonous?

ChlorophyllJill(z6 OK)December 3, 2005

Hi everyone -

About a month and a half ago I was taking all my plants inside and my Pachypodium gouged my index finger pretty good. I thought I had gotten the sliver out until I bent my finger and noticed a sharp pain. There was one more sliver that I missed and quickly removed. Well - since then my finger has never really been the same. The spine poked me right on the middle joint of the finger and it's still painful there when I try to bend it. I can't fully bend it, either. Everything I've read says that Pachy's aren't poisonous - but my finger even looks a little disfigured now! And, a tiny bit puffy. Has anyone had any similar experiences with those vicious Pachypodium spines? This is a fairly large plant - about 2 1/2 or 3 ft. tall. Thanks!


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I've not been bitten by any of my pachys, but I have had plenty of cactus spines impale themselves in my flesh. Sometimes the tips are in so deep, it is impossible to remove them. They hurt for several weeks until they work their way to the surface, or are absorbed. I think you left a small piece of spine behind when you removed it.

That leads to an inflammatory reaction to the foreign (not you) material still in your finger. Because the puncture is over a joint, the pain is more annoying and may make it difficult or impossible to remove the remaining plant material. However, it should eventually start to feel better. Unless there is a physical obstruction in the joint from any remaining spine, the pain is mostly caused by your own immune system attacking and absorbing the foreign matter. You should consider seeking professional medical advise if things don't start to get better soon.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 7:34PM
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myrmecodia(7 NC)

Yeah, Paracelcus has it right. If the joint is still inflamed after 6 weeks, it would be a good idea to see a doctor. In addition to an immune response, there may be the possibility of bacterial or fungal infection

When I have been spiked by Pachypodiums, the extreme tip of the spine almost always remains lodged in the wound and itches like crazy. It is very fragile and so tiny as to be almost invisible. Sometimes I have resorted to sticking my hand under a dissecting microscope in order to see the spine.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 8:05PM
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rpw53(south Florida)


I had a similar experience last summer when a cactus spine pierced a knuckle joint. After about a week or so of redness, swelling, and localized fever in the knuckle, I saw an orthopod for xrays and there was nothing in the knuckle - no spine or infection... seems as if the spine poking into the knuckle (the spine stayed on the plant and never broke off) triggered a reaction similar to rheumatoid arthritis...
It cleared up by itself after a few weeks, yet still gives me occasional pain.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 11:10PM
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ChlorophyllJill(z6 OK)

rpw53 -

That is EXACTLY what I'm talking about - it does seem similar to rheumatoid arthritis.

Thanks for the info everyone! Guess I'll wait a little longer and see what happens. Love my Pachy - but man he hurts!


    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 1:16AM
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vvdo(z6 NY)

I'm suggest seeing a doctor... it may be infected. Everytime you break your natural barrier (aka skin), you are at increased risk for infection... something got in that's not supposed to be there... you may need some antibiotics and maybe even an X-ray to evaluate the bones to rule out osteomyelitis (bone infection).

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 5:33PM
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Any injury to the crease in your fingers can very easily cause injury to the tendon or into the joint space. Tendons and joints don't have good blood supply so they heal slowly and don't fight off infection well. Go to a doctor and see if you can get a referral to a doctor who specializes in hand surgery. Speaking from experience they are alot more proactive when it comes to taking care of infections in fingers.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 11:57PM
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ChlorophyllJill(z6 OK)

I've noticed a slight improvement the last couple of days, so maybe there's hope! I'd like to avoid going to the doctor if at all possible for financial reasons - but I certainly hope it's not something like bone infection!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 6:28PM
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jeffrey_harris(San Diego, CA)

Dear Jill,

That's good news. If you believe there's material from your Pachy left in your hand, try a bread and milk poultice - soak bread in milk and apply - it helps draw it out. Another suggestion is an epsom salt soak.

Pachypodiums are in the same Family as Oleander, Plumeria and Adenium. I know that all parts of the Oleander are poisonous, so I should think Pachys are, too, but to what degree I don't know.

The Family used to be called the Apocynaceae, and maybe still is. I think some taxonomist have combine the Asclepidaceae (the stink flowered family) with the Apocynaceae, based on flower and seed pod characteristics.

Below is a link to some more information.

Here is a link that might be useful: Doggone Dogbane

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 6:37PM
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ChlorophyllJill(z6 OK)

You guys must be sending me good vibes or something - my finger is much improved. It feels a lot better and even seems to be returning to a normal shape. Not that it was severely disfigured - just sort of odd like I was getting a touch of rheumatoid arthritis.

Thanks for the link Jeff - I really appreciate it. I didn't realize that Pachy's are in the same family as Oleander etc. - maybe someday I'll know that much about plants! I'm taking note of the poultice recipe in case I need it.

Here's to a pain-free relationship with my spiny and prickly friends! And yes, I do mean plants! ;)


    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 11:17AM
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During Thanksgiving weekend I was watering some plants in my front yard when the hose got a kink in it and I jerked it to loosen it and the inside of my wrist went full force into our 6' Pachypodium. Immediately it was swollen and felt as if the thorn was stuck in my wrist. I could not move it for about 3 days. After that it has never been the same. I can not bend it inward without a sharp pain like a needle sticking into the joint. It now has a quarter size bump there and I went and had a MRI which showed some cellulitis which is an infection. It also showed that I have a tear in the fibrocartilage which could have been caused by the thorn. I am in such pain and nothing seems to make it better. I am going to go to a specialist because I can not live like this.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 10:43AM
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ChlorophyllJill(z6 OK)

mlapradd -

Wow - I hope you're doing better. I didn't have to go to a doctor like you have, but I almost did. Let us know how your are doing!


    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 10:21PM
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