Euphorbia Poison

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andrewsloan

  • Jr. Member
Euphorbia Poison
« on: July 18, 2012, 01:46:45 PM »
I am starting to get a bit nervous about Euphorbias and the potential danger from some of them. I recently acquired a very nice Sedum Morganianum (Donkey Tail) which some people confuse with Euphorbia Myrsinites as . it is also called Donkey Tail and has a similar shape. This Euphorbia's white sap is apparently quite dangerous and I have read tales of people being hospitilised after the sap got on their hands and they rubbed their eyes and started going blind. It appears one needs to use milk or calamine lotions to clean the eyes rather than water.
I only have a few euphorbias, viz E. Rigida, E Characias and E Resinifera, but I am wondering if they are worth the potential danger and am considering pulling up the E Resinifera as it is quite nasty from its sap.
Am I getting too paranoid? I had been planning on putting a few into our new dry garden but an currently uncertain and would welcome the opinion of others.

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Fleur Pavlidis

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Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2012, 09:33:39 AM »
Everyone has their personal paranoia in the garden, but I don’t think you need to worry about euphorbias. The only time when you’re likely to come in contact with the sap is when dead-heading and there are two methods to avoid getting covered: leave the heads on all summer until the stems are dry and sapless, or cut the green stems carefully but leave them lying on the ground by the plant for a couple of days to let the sap coagulate. Then they’re safe to collect but still don’t put them through the shredder for a while. It’s a really bad idea to rub your eyes while gardening in any case – another reason for being particular about wear gloves and glasses.
I have lots of E. characias ss characias in the garden but last year I planted E. characias ss wulfenii which makes a neater plant and looks more attractive without dead-heading.
MGS member, Greece. I garden in Attica, Greece and Mt Goulinas (450m) Central Greece

pamela

  • Sr. Member
Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2012, 01:45:15 PM »
I love Euphorbias but I am now very careful with them doing as Fleur suggests. I probably had a speck on my finger after touching a stem of a tiny new plant which I thought was broken. After I must have touched below my eye. The funny thing was it took 24 hours for a huge red burning welt on my cheek to come up (The pharmacist mentioned these plants when I went to see her the next day) and I then read somewhere that it takes 24 hours for it to react.  Even after I had 2 showers in that period.  So I am very wary of how I treat them now.  I was lucky it wasn't my eye!
Jávea, Costa Blanca, Spain
Min temp 5c max temp 38c  Rainfall 550 mm 

"Who passes by sees the leaves;
 Who asks, sees the roots."
     - Charcoal Seller, Madagascar

Alice

  • Hero Member
Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2012, 08:37:17 PM »
Thank you for the information about the dangers of Euphorbia sap. I didn't realise the reaction could be so dramatic. Forewarned is forearmed!
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

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John

  • Hero Member
Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2012, 10:42:20 AM »
I have to say that I have been handling and pruning Euphorbias for most of my life and never had any obvious problems. I do however live in a generally cloudy country and thought that one of the problems is due to the reaction with strong sunlight on the juice on the skin. Similar to other toxic saps such as Heracleum mantegazzianum (Giant Hog Weed) and Ruta graveolens (Rue). The latter I have been badly burnt with as a student when I was sent out to collect cuttings in bright sunlight and my hand bubbled up with horrendous blisters.
I do always try and wash of any sap I get on my skin which frequently happens when I am cleaning up Euphorbia and especially with E. x pasteurii which I normally dead head once the seeds have gone.
They are such good plants though and I wouldn't want to be without them!
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

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Alisdair

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Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2012, 12:52:24 PM »
There can be quite difference from person to person, in reaction to plant poisons - so I guess best always to be on the safe side. The reaction can change with the passage of time, too. I used to be very allergic to Primula malacoides, coming up in a rash immediately if I brushed the hairs. After steering clear for several years I tested myself on them again and found I no longer reacted.
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

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John

  • Hero Member
Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2012, 05:04:55 PM »
My allergy to Primula took many years to build up and is now severe. P. malacoides but in particular Auriculas which I used to grow and breed. Just an accidental brush against the plant starts a severe rash. I am also now somewhat allergic to Tulip bulbs which has taken many years to happen.
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

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andrewsloan

  • Jr. Member
Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2012, 01:07:14 PM »
One of the members of my Planet Euphorbia group has published this link which explains the relative danger from each type of euphorbia www.theamateursdigest.com/epoisons.htm
It is a good to raise the awareness of any potential danger in the garden. This discussion has been most interesting (as always on the Forum)

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John

  • Hero Member
Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2012, 02:14:37 PM »
Interesting article can you tell me/us more about the Planet Euphorbia Group please?
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

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andrewsloan

  • Jr. Member
Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2012, 01:07:10 PM »
I am active on Facebook and there are a number of Facebook groups dedicated to different things. They are called Planet ......, so I have joined up
Planet Aloe
Planet Agave
Planet Succulents
Planet Euphorbia
 We are approx 300-400 members worldwide of each group and like this Forum we share experiences so a "Newbie" like me can ask questions and hopefully someone with more experience will post a reply. Photos also are easy to post as there is no need to downsize with PhotoShop (I think a disadvantage of this Forum) and so people post photos of eg their aloes in flower in California, S Africa etc. For me it has been very useful to-date and I look in everyday to see what is new.

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John

  • Hero Member
Re: Euphorbia Poison
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2012, 08:00:26 PM »
Thanks for the info.
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.