Dangerous Naked Lady

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Dangerous Naked Lady
27 Comments
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By John Wiley

Now that I have your attention, below are some details about encountering a naked lady in our front yard. She has many aliases for whatever reason(s). Another name is milk bush and apparently some use fire stick. Our neighbors also call it Sticks On Fire. Other names include Indian tree spurge, pencil tree, pencil cactus, and if you know some please Comment. As you may have guessed by now I'm talking about this lovely lady.

You've also probably guessed that her appearance in our yard is my doing. It's attractive, needs almost no water, is resistant to fire, and is so easy to grow even I can do it. I got a small piece of it and stuck it in the ground, watering occasionally for a week or two. Then I noticed that the one in a neighbor's back yard is 10' tall. Another local suggested being very careful cutting it, which I did three days ago. This is where the plot thickens.

That is the right eye of an amateur photographer who's seen the light and wants to keep doing so. My eye doesn't normally look so puffy, droopy, scary and unhealthy. Turns out that the naked lady (Euphorbia tirucalli) is increasingly popular in California, but most people have never heard of it. My extended education begs the question: "Euphor...?! Certainly not related to any sort of Euphoria, and EuPhobia would be more apt. Anyway, despite being quite careful having been warned, I obviously still managed to get some on me and spread it to an eye and the opposite ear. That ear looks much worse than the eye. Both areas are dramatically hideous, swollen and itchy to the extent that the above eye was nearly shut Sunday morning so we went to E.R. thinking it could be a systemic disease.

Turns out in extreme cases (mostly people who don't know what caused it and thus continue to spread the toxin on themselves, others, surfaces, and pets), it can cause blindness and hearing loss. Treatment is apparently similar or identical to poison oak: 1.Extreme care (goggles and disposable gloves) to avoid touching the plant, and especially the white sticky latex that quickly emerges from this species and can even shoot out when it's cut. 2.Immediate removal of any toxin that may be on your skin, using detergent or soap and copious water (eye wash saline and possibly baby shampoo if you actually get it IN an eye) and for skin some even suggest a mineral spirits product like TechNu (contains mineral oil which could actually cause other problems, but in a bad case...).

I'm posting this in the hope that it may spare you and everyone you care about (hopefully even mortal enemies), such an enduring encounter. The reason being that the excellent and very experienced E.R. doctor had never heard of this plant or its threat to human happiness. So hopefully shouting this from Ed's rooftop can help get the word out to anyone else who greatly enjoys having this in their yard and safely away from kids. Online movements are afoot to require warning labels at nurseries. Maybe I'll post a warning sign about there being a Dangerous Naked Lady in the yard. Well, perhaps better: FireStick Plant is Harmful Do Not Touch. Anyone else have experiences or info about this to share? There's of course a good wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphorbia_tirucalli

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notme Oct 03, 2022 11:09 AM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Is this the same as the Naked Lady Amaryllis bulb (Amaryllis belladonna)? We always called those "naked ladies" because the leaves die off before the flower blooms, leaving them "naked." Hope you're on the mend.

a-1664828260 Oct 03, 2022 01:17 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

No, they are completely different, no need to worry about that plant. They are not only different species, but also different genus, family, and order.

Minibeast Oct 03, 2022 01:21 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

NOTME: No. It's not Amaryllis. I have no idea why Mr. Wiley decided to call his Euphorbia "naked lady." The most common name for Euphorbia tirucalli is "Sticks on Fire" or "Firesticks." From www.poison.org ----- "Euphorbia, also known as spurges, is a genus of over 2000 different flowering plants. These plants contain a milky white sap that can be very irritating to the skin, eyes, and mouth. If someone is exposed to spurge sap, it is important to decontaminate the exposed area."----------Mr. Wiley, to his misfortune, found out the hard way about Euphorbia sap. (I recommend using goldenseal tincture or tea as an eyewash, to help ease the irritation and promote healing.)

John Wiley Oct 03, 2022 06:34 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Naked Lady is the second name listed at the top of the linked wiki, and as MiniBeast presumably guessed Mr. Wiley used that name in the hope of garnering broad attention to this danger.

Ahchooo Oct 03, 2022 02:09 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

The internet tells me : In East Africa the latex [sap] is commonly used as arrow poison and as an ingredient for bait to kill rodents and other wild animals; the pulped stems are thrown in water as fish poison. (from tropical.theferns.info).
Wow! I’m steering clear of this plant.

Basicinfo805 Oct 03, 2022 02:35 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Crap, we have a number of these plants in pots. They’re cool looking. Had no idea. Thanks for posting the warning. I appreciate it.

Lucky 777 Oct 03, 2022 02:51 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Poinsettia has the same milky latex sap, there are lots of common plants here that do. If you see white ooze when pruning, take precautions!

Benicee Oct 03, 2022 03:08 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Caltrans should plant them next to the freeway/sound walls.

a-1664836739 Oct 03, 2022 03:38 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Hate seems to over come any twinges of civilization some people might have.

biguglystick Oct 04, 2022 11:52 AM
Dangerous Naked Lady

So true, 6739. The hate comes out in oozes. So sad.

Benicee Oct 03, 2022 04:19 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Any twinges of civilization some people might have. Like let letting humans sleep next to 2000 pound metal objects flying by @ 80mph?

sacjon Oct 03, 2022 04:33 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

BENICEE - is that really what you're "concerned" about?

biguglystick Oct 04, 2022 11:52 AM
Dangerous Naked Lady

YES, Benicee, hate for those so much less fortunate than you in your comfy bed at night.

chico berkeley Oct 03, 2022 04:41 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

I have many outside.
Firesticks or Pencil plant is what we call it.
The colder it gets the more red it becomes.

edney Oct 03, 2022 04:56 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Poinsettias are a euphorbia

Amaryllis are poisonous as well. Particularly so to dogs and cats but to humans as well.
Probably not poisonous to kill you, but will ruin your weekend

Benicee Oct 03, 2022 05:27 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Sac. No it’s not. What I’m really concerned about is our electric grid. Maybe if we could harness the power of all my downvotes that will fix the problem.

John Wiley Oct 03, 2022 06:30 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Wow I'm glad so many of you already know about the firestix naked lady. I was actually super careful while cutting but cleaned the garden snips the next day with detergent (Folex) and paper towel, so most likely that's what made me monocular. MD has me on Prednisone, that will hopefully help (just started this afternoon). Also got some topical benadryl creme that seems to help a lot. Well, no 3D movie tonite. :(

a-1664886916 Oct 04, 2022 05:35 AM
Dangerous Naked Lady

John, glad you're somewhat okay, and being treated.
Was raised by a gardening parent who loved cacti and succulents. I won't plant anything without knowing about it. Heck, I can't touch yarrow! But I'm super-sensitive.

Thank You for the Attention-Grabbing Headline. I agree it was a good strategy. It sure got my eyes!

yin yang Oct 04, 2022 05:38 AM
Dangerous Naked Lady

BEing super-sensitive, topical benadryl and OTC cortisone don't touch my skin itches/irritations. Prescription topical triamcinalone does. I'm never without it, and a tube lasts me a year.
Good luck, get well quickly!

mtndriver Oct 04, 2022 08:21 AM
Dangerous Naked Lady

I’ve never heard that Euphorbia called Naked Lady before. Truly a toxic beauty, though! Many succulent Euphorbias have very toxic sap, and can do similar damage. People confuse them with cacti—big mistake. And sometimes nurseries sell them as cacti, so it’s good to be able to tell the difference. Become a Lotusland docent and you’ll learn all about that!

halibut52 Oct 04, 2022 10:11 AM
Dangerous Naked Lady

I had a horrible experience with this plant 5 yrs ago. While doing pruning on a 15' specimen I got sap on my arms & in both eyes. Washing thoroughly didn't help. Within an hour the burning in my eyes was unbearable. It felt like thousands of tiny needles under my eyelid poking into my eyeball. We rushed to GVCH ER where I was laid on a gurney with a small, oblong plastic cup on my eye & a saline flush washing through it. Spent 4 hrs there and went through 6 1000ml bags of saline and 4 doses of a strong narcotic pain med.
I steer clear of this plant by whatever name it's given & warn everyone to do the same. Thank you John for helping make people aware of this issue!

biguglystick Oct 04, 2022 11:53 AM
Dangerous Naked Lady

WHOAH! Halibut! Sorry to hear. I'm glad both you and John Wiley are ok.

Shasta Guy Oct 04, 2022 09:21 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Sorry to hear about your experience John. A friend gave a cutting from her plant, and I put it in the Tucson microclimate zone of our front yard.

I read up about it and that it’s capable of extreme irritation, so I plan to be very careful. It shouldn’t be in a location where kids and pets could contact it.

The plant is all over town. It’s like having ornamental poison oak on steroids.

imarshell Oct 05, 2022 08:08 AM
Dangerous Naked Lady

An interesting name: euphoria and phobia combined? Careful with a lot of succulents as they're not all Aloes!

edney Oct 05, 2022 12:56 PM
Dangerous Naked Lady

Amaryllis are also poisonous.
Particularly so to dogs, cats, small humans.
They can give an adult human a bad weekend
https://gardenerspath.com/plants/general-guides/poisonous-plants/#:~:text=Toxic%20Bulbs%20of%20the%20Amaryllis,can%20be%20hazardous%20if%20ingested.

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