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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

FDA Poisonous Plant Database

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AUTHOR(S): Anonymous
TITLE: Botanical hazards.
YEAR: 1966 CITATION: Arch Ophthalmol, 75(1), 1 [English]
FDA #: F10211
ABSTRACT: Preoccupied with bacteria, viruses, and fungi, we are apt to forget that certain plants may also pose an occasional threat to our ocular cell being. One threat, called to out attention by an article published elsewhere in this issue, is the common cockle bur or burdock, whose tiny shafts lock themselves into the tarsal conjunctiva and cause chronic abrasions of the cornea. These motes are particularly noxious, because their protruding points are scarcely visible to the examiner and because the patients are apt to be young children who resist prolonged manipulation of their lids. The cockle but presents a double menace. The shafts of the outer layers consist of flexible hairs, each equipped with a single hooklet that enmeshes itself in one's clothes or in animals' fur. The shafts of the inner core, on the other hand, are rigid needles equipped with retroflexed spikes seemingly designed to penetrate tissue. The portion of the cockle bur which gives it the characteristically penetrating property is not the portion which we associate with the familiar adhesiveness of the cockle. In contrast to the mechanical injury by the cockle bur, some plants cause a chemical keratoconjunctivitis. In addition to the sizeable group of allergens, some have directly toxic saps. One of these is the manchineel plant (also called manzanillo or beach apple), which grows in Florida and Central America. Contact causes blistering of the skin and an excruciatingly painful keratitis. Legend has it that 16th century Indians in the Florida Everglades practiced a sort of chemical warfare by herding the Spanish conquistadors under a manchineel tree during a rain storm to produce blindness or by tying captives to such a tree so that the latex would fall on the victims' faces. Better documented reports appeared in the ARCRIVES and in other journals during the last World War, describing soldiers in Panama who developed incapacitating keratitis after covering their foxholes with branches from the manchineel plant or after sleeping under these trees while on maneuvers. The corn flower in Hawall (sometinies used for making leis), madder from India, and wild fig of Australia are also said to have similarly oculotoxic (and vesicant) effect. Perhaps best documented is the keratoconjunctivitis from the sap of the candelabra cactus and the pencil tree reported recently in the ARCHIVES. The wonder is that the ubiquitous poison ivy, which commonly causes severe swelling of the lids and vesiculation of the skin, has so rarely been reported to cause corneal or conjunctival lesions.
GRIN #: 418390 Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: candelabra cactus
STANDARD COMMON NAME
FAMILYEuphorbiaceae
LATIN NAME
STANDARD PLANT NAMEEuphorbia lactea Haw.
GRIN #: 400211 Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: pencil tree
STANDARD COMMON NAME: Indian tree spurge
FAMILYEuphorbiaceae
LATIN NAME
STANDARD PLANT NAMEEuphorbia tirucalli L.
GRIN #: 16951 Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: wild fig
STANDARD COMMON NAME
FAMILYMoraceae
LATIN NAME
STANDARD PLANT NAMEFicus pumila L.
GRIN #: 19174 Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: manchineel
STANDARD COMMON NAME
FAMILYEuphorbiaceae
LATIN NAME
STANDARD PLANT NAMEHippomane mancinella L.
FDA #: F10211
GRIN #: ----- Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: corn flower
STANDARD COMMON NAME
FAMILYUnknown
LATIN NAME
STANDARD PLANT NAMEPlant unknown
FDA #: F10211
GRIN #: 10572G Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: madder
STANDARD COMMON NAME
FAMILYRubiaceae
LATIN NAME
STANDARD PLANT NAMERubia sp.
GRIN #: 101866 Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: poison-ivy
STANDARD COMMON NAME
FAMILYAnacardiaceae
LATIN NAME
STANDARD PLANT NAMEToxicodendron radicans (L.) Kuntze
GRIN #: 42072 Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: cocke bur
STANDARD COMMON NAME
FAMILYAsteraceae
LATIN NAME
STANDARD PLANT NAMEXanthium strumarium L.
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