Friday, April 15, 2011

Another harmful part of cactus

I got the interesting question about the poisonous cactus.  After asking my friends who are the cacti great collector and searching the information., I found that beyond the sharp thorn, other harmful main part of cactus is sticky milk sap but not all cacti have the toxic sap.  Just only some of them have such sap.  Here is the list of cactus which has the harmful latex:

The desert rose (Adenium obesum) is a member of the dogbane family. Like many of its relatives, the  desert rose can exude a milky acrid sap when the stems or leaves are broken. This sap has cardioactive ingredients that can be dangerous if taken internally. Ingestion can cause abdominal pain and vomiting.

Some of the euphorbias or spurge species yield a milky latex. This can cause dermatitis in susceptible individuals. Avoid getting this in your eyes or bare skin, particularly if you have open sores or wounds. All parts of the euphorbias could be potentially poisonous if consumed. If swallowed, this can cause lesions of the mouth. Ingestion of the juice can also act as a purgative. In addition, gastrointestinal symptoms can occur.

Pachypodium is another member of the dogbane family. These often have a caudex. Bearing resemblance to a columnar cactus, this has thorns up and down the length of the stems. These thorns are modified stipules. They can be injurious, so be careful. Like the other dogbane relatives, this plant yields a poisonous sap.

Agaves, including the century plant and maguey, contains an irritating latex or sap. This can cause dermatitis in susceptible individuals.

Crassula argentea
Christmas candle is also known as candelilla. This is a species of pedilanthus. It is related to the euphorbias or spurges. All parts of the plant have a toxic white sap. Avoid getting this on your skin. It can cause severe dermatitis in susceptible individuals. If taken internally, it can bring on various gastrointestinal symptoms. These include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and nausea.

The baby jade (Crassula argentea) also has a burning, irritating sap. This comes from the leaves and all other parts of the plant. This latex can cause dermatitis.

Meanwhile, many of the Opuntia cacti have glochids (small hair-like spines) that can hurt someone who is unaware. It can make skin irritation.  (And really it’s difficult to get rid of the small spine from the skin.  I had every that experience before.)  The bunny-ear Opuntia is particularly deceptive because it looks so cute and touchable.  But the spine of some Mammillaria is OK.  Its spine is so soft like the teddy bear (Personally, I like to touch it when I feel upset.) 
my favorite mammillaria

So when working with these plants, especially if your hands have wound, protect them and arms with heavy, long sleeved clothing and gardening gloves.  If you are injured, seek medical attention. Watch the injured spot carefully for signs of infection.

1 comment:

Yaten said...

And there are also those hooked spines which are really painful to get out of your skin if you happen to have close encounters with them ;)