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Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Posted by cypss522 Wi (My Page) on
Sun, Sep 12, 10 at 11:54

I would like to warn anyone who has or may want to buy a so called pencil cactus ( really a Euphorbia). This plant is still sold in garden centers as a cactus. This plant is toxic and you can go blind if you get the sap in your eyes. Here is what happened to me. I was working for a landscape company and we re-potted a ladys so called pencil cactus. After washing my hands with soap I touched my eyes and in minutes they started to burn. The sap is latex based and does not always come off with soap. And hour later I was blind in the ER with both corneas burned out. I cant even describe the pain. They washed my eyes out but did not know how to treat the burn. I went home and had my son look this plant up and it said the sap is like having lye thrown in your eyes and you can go blind. I went back to the ER and was treated by a doctor who knew the danger of this plant. I spent three long days in absolute agony, blind and on massive amounts of Vicodin. The eye specialist I went to said it was the worst eye burn she had ever seen. I spent three months with pressure in my eyes on steroids and hopeful I did not loose my eyesight. If you have a latex allergy all Euphorbias are dangerous because of the latex based sap. If you have one of these pencil cactus's please get rid of it, dont buy one at garden centers,wear gloves and even then wash your hands raw. You will not know if you have a latex allergy until its too late. But all pencil cactus is dangerous for all people. If you get the sap in your eyes, flush, flush flush, then get to the ER ASAP. I would not wish the agony I went though on anyone. As for my lovely employer, they locked up the shop because they feared a visit from OSHA. Please do not let this happen to you, a plant is not worth the danger of possible blindness. This plant should be outlawed and never sold to the public, ever.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

There are plenty of dangerous/toxic plants in the world and people still grow them in there gardens and inside the home

It's good to know you can see after this misfortunate event, the not so good side is how your gardening or your supervisors working experiance and training seem to fall a bit short in the area of toxic/dangerous plants

What needs to be banned is someone like your supervisor doing short favors for someone for a fee while endangering you the way they did and then acting as they didn't know what the plant might do. A result of there ignorance was locking doors to hide the fact.

Here is a link that might be useful: The pencil cactus


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

cypss,

I'm sorry for your experience - if you had had the juice from the leaves of Aeonium lindleyii, your suffering would have been much alleviated.

I'm also sorry if this offends you, and I don't mean for it to do so, but your post has some semi-hysterical information, which really does no one any good.

It's quite a common landscape plant in SouCal, and I do agree with you, this plant can be dangerous if not handled correctly, but really, it's about labeling and educating the public - it's not the plant's fault, but the marketing of it that, IMO, is at fault.

I've handled many a Euphorbia tirucalli plant with no problem and other Euphorbias, sometimes with some problems, but you have to aware of your surroundings and equipment to do it. Protective clothing and goggles, lots of tepdid water to staunch the latex flow...etc. It's like doing hot work at an electrical transformer - you have to be prepared and aware.

I'm really surprised at the response of your employer, but perhaps that's a result of my company's constant stress on safety.

Once again, it's too bad you had to experience the agony of mishandling this plant, but to blame the plant is misplaced anger. To ask for its banning is understandable, if misguided, but it's ignorant to think that it's the plant's fault.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

The dangers of Euphorbia have been discussed many times before on this forum. I had a severe reaction after handling a wild Euphorbia, Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias) when a drop of the latex dripped on my finger. I was in bed for 4 days with my eyes nearly swollen shut and a severe rash over most of my body.

That being said, I am totally against outlawing any Euphorbia or any plant based on the fact it is dangerous. Are we going to outlaw certain cacti because one could be impaled on the thorns? Are we going to outlaw the Castor Bean plant or others whose seeds are poisonous? Knowledge is power. Learn something about the plants you are going to be dealing with, and take necessary precautions. Err on the side of caution, and wear gloves and goggles when handling a plant with which you are not familiar.

Christopher


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

totally agree with that last comment... the information is out there, and in the case of Euphorbia tirucali, it is abundant. It seems cited by more than the average Euphorbia partly because it is so common, large and takes so little trauma to cause it to start leaking sap. But if you are a Plumeria grower (and there may be more of those out there than Euphorbia tirucali growers), that sap is very similar, and due to the large size (trees often) of Plumeria, cutting a branch overhead can frequently end up in that toxic sap in the eye... best to just be careful with all your plants


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Not hysterical at all

I don't find anything hysterical in the first post. If it had happened to me, I'd want to outlaw the plant also.

I might add that even someone who has read all the warnings about Euphorbia sap might not realize how caustic it is ... or they might not believe it if they've never read a first-hand account. So thank you, Cypss. By sharing your painful experience, you may have saved a lot of other people from injury and misery. Good for you!

And thanks for the warning about plumeria, Lzrddr. I just brought some cutting back from Hawaii and I had no idea that the sap was comparable to Euphorbia.


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If that so-called "landscape company" had been a credible, licensed entity, this would not have happened. It takes a certain amount of experience in the field to get a Landscape Contractor's license. I know because I have a C27 license issued in California. Anyone with a minimum amount of experience in the garden business has learned of the toxic properties of Euphorbias, and would know to be especially vigilant working with E. tirucalli. I work with it regularly and have never had a serious issue, because I know and understand the danger.

Perhaps we should outlaw roses because their thorns might hurt someone? Quick - Appoint a Federal Garden Czar to oversee the removal of offensive plants all over America.


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I think I saw that movie! RUN AWAY IT'S A PENCIL TREE CACTUS!!

I have to agree about the hysterical part. Corneas "burned out" and a doctor that doesn't know how to treat a corneal burn? It doesn't matter WHAT caused the damage, the burn is treated the same way. Irrigate, irrigate, irrigate. Slit lamp exam, refer to opthamology. A cornea that was "burned out" would require a corneal transplant.

Latex allergies are becoming more common, generally you are going to have a mild reaction to latex and subsequent exposures produce more severe symptoms. Anaphylactic shock is not the usual first reaction to latex so yeah, you WOULD know before it was too late.

I was stabbed in the leg with a palm frond, developed cellulitis, on abx for 4 weeks, lots of pain. I don't have anything against palms.

There are MUCH MUCH more dangerous plants-mostly growing in my yard lol! like thevetia peruviana-one seed will kill you and the sap is a latex based one that causes dermatitis is some individuals, datura, castor beans...the list goes on and on.

Tally HO!


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Yes, I'm sorry the OP got injured, through no fault of his/her own, but if you're working with plants you need to take the time to learn about them. The employer was dreadfully remiss in not informing/training the staff.

Banning this plant? I call that semi-hysterical. Based on this logic, you'd ban all cats whenever a tiger chewed on some simpleton who wanted to commune with them in their zoo enclosure.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

To the original poster; thanks for your input and I hope you feel better soon. If someone would have let you known about the plant you wouldn't be in this position.


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I think reactions to Euphorbia latex must vary greatly from person to person. I grow several hundred species, but have never ever had a negative reaction to their sap. Then again, I don't stick my fingers in my eyes immediately after handling them, unlike the OP :)

Bravo, cypss522! Even with "both corneas burned out" you could still type your tale of woe.

-R


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

... As for my lovely employer, they locked up the shop because they feared a visit from OSHA. Please do not let this happen to you, a plant is not worth the danger of possible blindness. This plant should be outlawed and never sold to the public, ever.

Well, I don't think banning the plant is the answer, but I'm sure that your employer is still financially responsible, closed up shop or not. You should not have to pay a single cent for your medical treatment. Your employer is responsible for injuries while perfoming normal job functions. Seek legal advise if 'she' is not covering the cost of your treatment.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Cypss... I feel your pain! I once took cuttings of a Euphorbia, washed my hands what I thought was an adequate amount, rubbed my eye and spent a night in severe pain. Nothing like what you experienced, mind you, but it was both scary and miserable. And, within a year, perhaps only coincidentally (though I've always wondered...), I had a detached retina that required surgery.

But I would never suggest banning Euphorbias. Not even the most caustic ones. I'm only so very sorry that your education about this plant was such a physically costly one. And I want to thank you for sharing it. The more often we see these first hand accounts, the more careful it will make us all, and especially newcomers to the love of plants.

I would like to add, though, that anyone with ornery pets that like to nibble and children should either not grow these plants at all, or keep such plants well out of their reach. My last German Shepherd as a puppy got hold of a Euphorbia and chewed it while we were away. There seemed to be no repercussions, but he died at age 8 of cancer in his sinus cavity. I will always wonder if it was my carelessness of leaving this plant in his reach that might have planted the seeds of that cancer...

Denise in Omaha... remembering my precious Remo


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I was thinking much as Para, that the employer should be handling the whole thing financially. Tho' I wondered if it was a job off the books maybe, then there would be none of the expected legal & medical coverages.

I have a Workers Compensation injury case of 25+ years. I've had various diagnostics for resultant back problems & regular chiropractic treatment ever after. Tho' I'd have preferred to skip the injury altogether, the fact is I have never paid ONE DIME for this care.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

"There seemed to be no repercussions, but he died at age 8 of cancer in his sinus cavity. I will always wonder if it was my carelessness of leaving this plant in his reach that might have planted the seeds of that cancer... "

While Euphorbias can be carcinogenic, if that had caused any sort of cancer in your dog it probably would've been some sort of oral or gastrointestinal cancer and it would've probably shown up a lot sooner. So this probably wasn't your fault or the plant's.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Please stop blaming Euphorbias for your medical problems and those of your pets.

"you can go blind if you get the sap in your eyes." While the sap can be irritating, I've never seen any evidence whatsoever that it can cause blindness, or any other sort of eye problems.

"I once took cuttings of a Euphorbia, ... And, within a year, ... I had a detached retina that required surgery."

"My last German Shepherd as a puppy got hold of a Euphorbia and chewed it while we were away. There seemed to be no repercussions, but he died at age 8 of cancer in his sinus cavity."

Seriously, you think that he died eight years later because of chewing on a Euphorbia?!?

I try so stay positive about gardenweb, but there are so many, well, idiots.

-R


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

"Idiots" is a strong word, but at least there are many who believes firmly in post hoc ergo propter hoc, appeal to authority and other logical fallacies.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

The only "idiot" I see here is one who is extremely, and almost always rude.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

My husband cut down a pencil cactus the day before yesterday before we knew what it was. Within the hour he was submitted to hospital with severe burning to the eyes and blindness. Anyone who wants to "DISS" this post had better go through the experience first!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just wish we had seen this before he did the gardening.

No pics so I've posted one


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

If you read my post above, you know I have been through it...Safety first.

Christopher


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Because your diss, your diss, is on my list. Never mind the fact that it should be spelled 'dis', as it means disrespect.

Jo,

Sorry it happened to your husband,. but if you're going to drop in and tell us not to 'DIS' the bad experiences, isn't that an open invitation to do so? Not that I would naturally take advantage of such an offer, but you are asking, aren't you? Drop by for more on how to write here - we're eager to learn.

This post was edited by cactusmcharris on Mon, May 27, 13 at 15:43


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Oh wow....Hall & Oates.

Talk about a flashback! lol


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Posted by asleep_in_the_garden
Oh wow....Hall & Oates.
Talk about a flashback! lol

Something only us "old timers" would likely catch. Heh


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Or someone who researched 80s music perhaps?

.....Nahhhhh that was pretty obscure. lol


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

I'm sorry about your negative experiences, but I would like to say, if you decide to purchase a plant or do any landscaping with one, you should do research on it before hand to discover any of its dangers or uses. Banning a plant because of a couple peoples' negative experiences (that weren't the plant's fault) is absolutely ridiculous. The pencil cactus is harvested for its latex. It is one of the main producers of things like sterile gloves and rubbers, and banning it is out of the question. It would be similar to banning peanuts because some people are allergic.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

aitg,

No research required in this case.

Riounis,

Are you sure about that? I believe that your information re source material for gloves / raincoats is erroneous. However, the rest of your post is sound advice.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

I would agree with the notion of banning as "overboard" or "semi-hysterical". A better example, I think, than Jeff's tiger-cat analogy would be dogs. Every year a surprising number (to me at any rate) are bitten by dogs. Yet except for some of the more moronic extremist animal rights groups, we don't see calls for banning/outlawing dog ownership. Or for that matter, how about all the people killed or maimed in auto accidents each year? FAR more people get harmed via autos than Euphorbia exposure. Shouldn't we first make an effort to outlaw all automobiles (which are obviously a more significant threat)?

No one has belittled what the OP or Josnuggls' husband went through, rather it has simply been pointed out that banning a plant because of human ignorance is illogical ... particularly since when proper precautions are taken, there is minimal risk. In the OP's case, it is particularly lamentable that he/she had the misfortune of working for employers who had their heads up their collective arse.

As far as uses for E. tirucalli, there is a link at the end of this post discussing some of them. From what I recall reading elsewhere, latex production is rather far down the list ... the plant simply does not produce a copious amount the latex compounds. And while on the subject of latex, I remember learning in an inservice for a previous employer that latex allergies are typically due chemicals used in the production of latex. It is possible to produce latex that does not cause such reactions, but it tends to be quite a bit more expensive.

Here is a link that might be useful: Uses for E. tirucalli


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Three years and someone still wants to rant over toxic plants ?

If you bought the toxic plant it's your responsibility to know it's toxic If not sure then assume it is until a qualified horticulturist or two tells you differently.

In the days of internet it comes as no surprise that people can easily point the finger at someone else over the toxic that the owner is responsible for. If ignorance prevented anyone from looking up plant toxic info then they are responsible for that too.



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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

I don't think it even occurs to the average Janes/Joes that plants can be toxic. I wouldn't have known if I weren't a plant hobbyist myself. I just don't think this is public knowledge.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Any plant toxic or not has several sources of information for anyone to look up Examples of public access for free information local libraries, encyclopedias as mentioned online information. Its the individuals who buys a plant to look the information up before they add it to there plant growing hobby or collection, not the public.
Ignorance is not an excuse, I hear what is trying to be said, the toxic plant that may harm any person animals or pets or properties is in the same manner as me saying...
I didn't know a lion would attack people if I got one for a pet because it's public information that is freely available, but I didn't take the effort in looking it up. Legally the owner is still the responsible person under all considerations for both lion or toxic plants and what ever damage they may cause.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Well, if this plant can be grown outside in the ground in tropical areas, and it can spread... I think this is somewhat of an issue. I'm not sure how many places that would be a problem.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Just like pirate girl said, if you weren't a plant hobbyist, you would know. The same goes for me, like how when about . like me a few Years ago,I got my first euphorbia. I was so interested by the sap and how it just oozed out of the plant, so I constantly poked it and played with the too as it oozed out. It never did anything to me that I can remember, but it goes to show that without proper knowledge, one can never know the true damage that can be caused by plants. So i recomend before you engage in contact with any plant, you should always look up the fact of the plant and any hazards it may contain. Because even I didn't know the true hazards of euphorbias.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

I cant grow euphorbias of any kind. They are a danger 2 my little sisters. I have had pencil cactus and severe blisters from the sap. God thank goodness i didnt get the sap in my eyes. Just like micro, i have played with the sap of my zig zag plant. (A Euphorbiaceae family member) and suffered blisters as a result. I even react to E. pulcherrima


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Pencil cacti,

Well I have two cents to add here if I may, yesterday I was moving my pencil cactus which I call the burning bush because of the color tho and although I have heard of all the dangers of this plant I still have never had any reaction to this plant other than the fear that trys to come on me when I'm handling it.

I will say that just as some folks are affected by poison Ivy and others just don't get any type of reaction to it I think it's the same thing with a lot of things, Not saying it can't have very i'll effects because I know they exist so just use a little wisdom when working in the garden.

Huh! the pencil sure has much written about it lately maybe it could use some sharpening today :)

Greg ;)


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

I don't know, PG, I have to disagree about the toxicity of plants not being public knowledge...I would think that even those who are not plant enthusiasts as we are would know poisonous mushrooms, castor bean seeds, which are the source of ricin, and such historical plants as hemlock and deadly nightshade...And if an owner of a Dieffenbachia doesn't stop to explore why it has the common name of Dumb Cane, maybe he shouldn't be growing it. Just my opinion.

Christopher


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

•Posted by pirate_girl
I don't think it even occurs to the average Janes/Joes that plants can be toxic. I wouldn't have known if I weren't a plant hobbyist myself. I just don't think this is public knowledge.

•Posted by kaktuskris
I don't know, PG, I have to disagree about the toxicity of plants not being public knowledge...I would think that even those who are not plant enthusiasts as we are would know poisonous mushrooms, castor bean seeds, which are the source of ricin, and such historical plants as hemlock and deadly nightshade...And if an owner of a Dieffenbachia doesn't stop to explore why it has the common name of Dumb Cane, maybe he shouldn't be growing it. Just my opinion.
Christopher

I'd have to agree with Karen, Christopher. While people SHOULD research the plants they buy and have around their home, many do not. The general public is, IME, NOT as knowledgeable as you are assuming.

I can say with a high degree of confidence that with very little effort I could round up any number of folks who do not know what hemlock or nightshade is, let alone what those plants even look like. With regards to castor beans, I was quite surprised to learn ( several years ago) that they were poisonous. I had not, before then, heard of ricin. What I was familiar with from listening to the reminisces of the "old folks" and the old setting tv shows and movies, was the use of castor oil as a laxative. (Turns out, btw, that castor oil actually has a surprisingly large number of uses.)

Mushrooms seem to be the one area in which a goodly part of the population is aware can be hazardous.

As far as cluing in to the reasons behind common names such as "Dumb Cane" for Dieffenbachia, that presumes that someone has HEARD of that common name. I never had until just a couple years ago when I was reading an article about Diefs -- and I have been a plant hobbyist for decades.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Agree with Paul. This plant among others is sold to the general, not always hobbiest, public. While thorns are obvious, poison inside a plant is not.

Labels from growers could indicate some danger if this bleeds so easily and is as powerfully toxic as I'm reading.
They list edited info as in: growing habits, sun requirement, etc. One more line would be valuable esp. a plant that has the capacity to cause more than just minor discomfort. My goodness, to wind up in the ER! Cypss' eyes were burned. That's no small matter.

My own habit is to read up on all critters and vegetation that I plan to grow. That's me. I know folks who buy stuff because it looks neat and remain unaware of it's characteristics. I've seen euphorbias, but never knew there was a risk of reaction to it's sap.

I'd be beyond upset if this happened to me. No, not the plants fault, but, wholesale growers and sellers, perhaps, could help spread the info and caution.

Cypss522, hope you're doing much better with no lasting negative effects.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

It's a plant, not a toy. In comparison toys are built in a manner to use and to prevent youth from being harmed Even with the printings for safe play operations or re-call information people still choose to ignore reading the safe operation of a child's toy.

Helps one wonder if plant toxic info would even get a glance let alone be read . Imagine the same plant toxic information being understood by....... EVERYONE who buys them ? Ohh what a wonderful world it would be if all people did understand printed information.

How often do people choose to be ignorant is as easy as seeing them reading the label on a glue board. A simple mouse catching device and they will still misuse it.


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To be succinct, Caveat emptor.

Christopher


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

while i dont agree on "banning" any plant,, any responsible company should use LARGE LABELS indicating the dangers, i would even say, it should be regulated, at least the labeling part.

If you really want to be an activist and feel strongly, write
(or go see) your congressman, start a group, a petition etc... to regulate it.
i will be the first person to join.

also, protest the company, or any company that sells it.

I have strong feelings about "banning" any of natures creations.
We may never know some benefit from it.
Also, what if it grows wild on my property ?
do i go to jail ?

1000 years ago there were a lot of dangers, and humans made it through OK, but they had to learn about their surroundings. if you buy a plant, or want to cut one down, you should learn about it first.

hope you're doing better
-------------------------------


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

A surprising number of very common plants have latex sap in addition to the many, many Euphorbias out there, including the former Pedilanthus tithymaloides which has been renamed E. tithymaloides.

Latex sap is not always white. There is latex in Ipomoea, Plumeria mentioned above, Ficus, Asclepias, Poppies, dandelion (Taraxacum.)

Other very common plants can severe cause contact dermatitis from irritating alkaloids, such as Philodendron, Callisia, and Tradescantia. The irritant in Dieffenbachia (dumb cane) is an alkaloid. (I remember to be careful by this: Aroid or Commelinaceae = likely alkaloids.) Not all alkaloids are irritating to skin, (and I don't really understand the word even after so much investigation, I'm not into chemistry,) but since so many are potentially irritating to the sensitive, knowing about them makes them easier to avoid.

As someone who is aware, I'm doing what I can to share the info, especially in ID requests, and mentioning it when I go into discussions about plants I know can be irritating.

You wouldn't believe what I went through until I realized I kept getting a rash from sweet potato vine and heart-leaf Philodendron vine. That was a lot of completely avoidable misery from 2 plants I *was* almost constantly propagating, trimming, sharing without realizing they were the cause.

I didn't realize until I started investigating that any plants besides Euphorbia had potentially irritating sap. This is something we should teach kids in addition to the (with priority over!) less useful stuff like the names of flower parts everyone learns but forgets. Know your sap, and wash if you touch any you don't.

Simply avoiding the sap has changed everything. I still have Euphorbias, and about everything I mentioned besides poppies. No need to panic, just avoid giving myself a rash. I seem to be suddenly allergic/sensitive to tons of plants that I know didn't bother me before. So please don't be lulled into a false sense of security if you touch latex sap before and didn't get a rash.

Spread the word!

This post was edited by purpleinopp on Tue, Feb 4, 14 at 11:57


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

I guess I'm lucky because the sap from these plants have never bothered me. Still, caution should always be used.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Do let me add mandevilla, they give me a bad rash also


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Has anyone hacked up an Oleander plant? Not only is this one of the most toxic plants on the planet (far more toxic than any Euphorbia species by a long shot) but its sap is also extremely irritating.. .sold at just about every nursery there is, at least here in California. One of the most commonly used landscape species not only along pubic highways, but in schools, malls, livestock areas etc... (I have often mused there is easily enough oleander planted along California highways to kill every human and all the other mammals on the planet).. never ever seen any hint of a warning when seeing these for sale. My friend hacked a huge one up that was in his yard, and ended up having to go to the hospital for a severe dermatitis rivaling any I had seen anyone get from a Euphorbia, even a pencil cactus.

So where does one decide the public needs to be educated when selling something? Might be there is some degree of common sense or personal responsibility a person needs to accept when getting something, be it a plant, a car, cigarettes, a knife, gun etc... ban some plants because they might possibly be dangerous would probably be the slippery slope that would pretty much it make it impossible for anyone to sell anything that could possibly harm another human in any way...


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I agree totally, lzrddr.

As I said back in 2010, "Knowledge is power. Learn something about the plants you are going to be dealing with, and take necessary precautions." Don't expect someone else to do it for you.

Christopher


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I guess I have just been very, very, very, very lucky. I grow all kinds of toxic, deadly, killer plants but have never had a problem, neither have any of my multitude of pets (dogs, cats, birds, reptiles...etc..) Have grown many species of Euphorbia for decades without a problem. I should be blind if not dead by now, so livin' on the wild side, I guess.


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No, I think you are just normal, or not overly unlucky. I have grown toxic and dangerous plants for decades, and have had 10 dogs the entire time.. only a possible toxicity of one time, when one of my step daughter's dogs went psycho one day and tried to eat part of an Encephalartos leaf during one of its manic anxiety episodes... got some bloody diarrhea and that was it. thankfully most toxic plants taste horrible so you have to have a very determine pet to end up with one that has a toxicity problem (cycad seeds are an exception- don't taste bad-, so you remove those if you have a coning cycad and curious dogs). I have messed with Euphorbias for 20 years now, and have gotten my share of mild rashes, sore lips and eyes and permanently damaged clothing (THAT is the biggest problem for me with Euphorbia sap... can't get it out of clothing!)... and I am overly careless and clumsy compared to the average human being. So if Im not blind or dead yet, you pretty much have to be unlucky to end up with a serious problem.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Not everyone is sensitive to the same substances in the same ways, or to the same degree. The sensitivity can be transient and intermittent for any individual. Sap that might give one a rash so severe that they have permanent scars on their skin might not affect another person at all. In the same way some people can touch urishiol (the irritating oil in the Toxicodendron genus) without consequence, latex and other potentially irritating substances do not have identical, certain, predictable consequences for each individual, for each exposure.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

  • Posted by mfyss w. Ill. (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 9, 14 at 16:35

I may have missed it in these many notes, but Aeonium lindleyi is commonly mentioned for use with euphorbia latex problems. It is reportedly used in the Canary Islands for this problem. E. lindleyi is readily grown and one of the sticky species. Yale


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Yale, are you saying these plants are substitutes for those sensitive to latex, or that these plants offer a treatment for exposure to latex?
- Tiffany


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

Tiffany,

The juice from the crushed leaves of that Aeonium are an antidote to contact with sap. I have a friend who got burned with sap from E. abdelkuri (one of the most toxic) and the juice alleviated the pain considerably.


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

  • Posted by mfyss w. Ill. (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 11, 14 at 10:30

Tiffany's question is nicely answered by Jeff; I had read elsewhere that "The caustic effect of euphorbia cyparissias is caused by phorbol acid and phorbol acid
ester. On the Canary Islands, the latex of euphorbiaceae is quickly removed by drop
application of the sap of aeonium lindleyi …"

Treatment of euphorbia latex on the eye with A. lindleyi sap is utilized to remove the toxic material. My note was to promote the plant to growers. Trimming our Pencil Cactus results in gushers of latex but have never had a reaction to it (yet!). Yale


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RE: Beware of the Pencil Cactus

That's excellent, TY both! So one could use it immediately upon exposure, AND later if they got a rash from unknown (at the time it happened) exposure?

I didn't search for an antidote when investigating the latex issue, but this didn't happen to show up in any of the stuff I've read until now.

Yale, I totally agree. If people don't know, they can't be ready by finding and obtaining this plant. It would be good to have one of these Aeonium plants in case of accidental, unintentional exposure to latex, which I'm sure will happen occasionally since I do have quite a few plants with latex in them. Washing immediately doesn't seem to prevent me from getting a rash. Maybe soap doesn't dissolve/remove the latex/acid? Or it just sinks into skin immediately?

I used to do so with no problem, but I can't pick figs anymore, at least not w/o gloves and long sleeves - or maybe just a big Aeonium plant ready to donate some anti-sap?


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