When Plants Attack

rusty_blackhaw(6a)April 14, 2012

I am reconsidering whether I should keep growing certain perennials (and other plants) that injure me.

First on the list are the hardy Opuntias I grew from seed that are in a prominent spot in one of my perennial beds. These have sizable and very painful spines that stick you when you attempt to weed around them. And it's not like I can't enjoy safer Opuntias - I have one that's completely spineless and has similar yellow flowers. So why I am reluctant to dig out the vicious form?

Then there are the ornamental grasses that slice up my hands and arms if they get a chance, particularly when I am trimming them back in fall/winter and forget to protect myself with long sleeves.

I like roses, but the ratio of flowers to thorns better be high enough to justify my growing them.

I also have a Phoenix theophrastii (Cretan date palm) I grew from seed which is now a three-footer in a pot in my office. This palm has leaflets with very sharp, pointy tips on which I have impaled myself numerous times. It's a handsome plant, but vicious.

Are there things you grow despite their ability to injure you?

*I have so far resisted the temptation to order seeds of Loasa species from Chiltern. In addition to supposedly having ornamental flowers, the entire plant is covered with painful stinging hairs. Nice for deterring intruders, maybe, but what if you forget your gloves when handling them?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if your plants are armed.. why arent you????

the best thing i ever found.. when going to extremes with hybrid T roses.. was gauntlet type rose pruning gloves.. check out the link

i really hate gloves as a basic rule ... but crimminey.. when plants attack.. i defend.. lol ..


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 4:14PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

And, make sure you keep your tetanus booster current....
I seem to do a better job with snagging my clothes than wounding myself, but never say never.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 4:29PM
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I've kept only chrysanthemums, because they cannot be replaced with anything. All the rest has been exterminated, among others Humulus, Ilex, Juniperus and my wife's roses.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 4:38PM
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I have a large potted Trifoliate Orange, Poncirus trifoliata. It is covered top to bottom with 2 to 3 inch green spines, spaced about an inch apart and needle sharp. It is a vicious plant, but beautiful, especially during the dormant season when it has no foliage. It's about 7 feet tall and about 4 feet wide, and I really do NOT enjoy bringing it in and out each fall and spring, because it is a painful experience despite heavy clothing.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 5:08PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Anybody ever have a run-in with Dictamnus seedheads? Yikes! I had a scar for years from the reaction I got. I still have the plant....can't be without that one!

I always seem to prune roses when I least expect to, so I'm never prepared with long clothing or gloves. Put it this way, the neighbors always know when I'm pruning the roses due to all the yelps and choice words that come from my yard!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 6:14PM
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I shovel-pruned Eryngium/sea holly mostly because the bloom period was short and the foliage looked horrible when it was finished blooming. The spiney, prickly foliage was Strike 3 and it was outta here. I don't miss it but do regret giving the old heave-ho to something for which I paid good money.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 6:32PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I have some nice leather gauntlet rose pruning gloves and I always forget to put them on and get stabbed by whatever using my regular gloves....argh. Did it today.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 7:14PM
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brandyray(Coastal NC/8a)

I love pyracanthra! But I don't have one because I haven't been able to figure out a good spot for it. I do have roses and holly shrubs, and sometimes I remember to put my long thick leather gloves on before tying them up, pruning, etc., when I forget, I keep asking them not to bite me. :) When it gets too bad, I go get my gloves. (Why is it that whatever tool one needs is always somewhere else?! I need a tool pouch w/ all the vital items in it- gloves, pruners, string, boxcutter, etc.) Brandy

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 11:08PM
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jan_on zone 5b

I was just lurking on the houseplants forum and read some reminiscing about 'Randy" who used to collect variegated plants, including variegated POISON IVY. Who knew? You might want to give that one a pass.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 12:57PM
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chris_ont(5a Ont)

I learned to wear a long-sleeved sweater when pruning back my hops vine.
I react so badly to whatever that plant exudes that any exposed skin ended up looking like I had been whipped.

Wonderful shade vine though, as long as there is enough space. It grows so fast that it'll wind around your leg if you stand still long enough.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 9:27PM
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I almost forgot to mention variegated milk thistle, Silybum marianum.

Modestly attractive, but that is one vicious spiny sucker.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 1:15PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

PPFFFTTTT.... pansies all of them compared to rugosa roses. They will rip the ever lovin' sh*t out of you if you're not careful, and you WILL lose the battle. Gauntlets offer some protection, but still I've gotten stabbed through the goatskin by those vicious thorns, they're brutal and show no mercy.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 2:11PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Planted a Bougainvillea at the bottom of one of the clothesline posts and haven't bothered to make a proper "bed" around it yet. Didn't really expect it to survive winter, but it's still alive. One of the thorns put a pretty good slice in my leg while mowing a couple weeks ago.

I love the lantanas along the fence but brushing against them while mowing is uncomfortable.

The stupid buckthorn tree with 3" thorns in the front yard and I have declared a truce. I've cut off everything up to about 6 1/2 feet and it agrees to grow tall enough to make itself useful via shade. (I know, *I* didn't plant it.)

The roses... sigh, worth it!

The most bothersome aspect of really thorny plants to me is not wanting to put their trimmings in the compost.

Long ago someone planted boxwoods all around my Mom's house and they are always waiting to pounce on & scratch anyone who gets close.

Not painful but I think everyone who gets "velcro weed" hates being attacked by it! Get OFF me!

Then there's the sticky plants, like petunias. How I do love them, especially when they smell good, but can't stand having the sticky sap attack my fingers when I have to touch them.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 2:26PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Wow, those are THORNS, mkx! Looks like I was typing while you were posting.

I don't try to handle rose trimmings or anything thorny even with gloved hands. Just use the "lopper" trimmer so I don't have to get too close, and use the lopper to pick up each piece as I trim it to put it in the wheelbarrow. Probably takes a little longer, but I don't take risks with getting impaled.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 6:20PM
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A further word on hardy Opuntias - the spiny ones don't just stick you, but at least some of their spines (glochids) come off in your skin and can get deeply embedded if you're not careful.

I weeded around my spiny one yesterday. Casualties were light.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 10:14AM
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chills71(Zone 6b Mi)


plant that poncirus. Mine grow more slowly than I'd like, but they don't even defoliate most years.

Cudrania Tricuspidata. 2 inch thorns on the stems, but its the little ones on the thinner branches that do the greatest damage. The big ones can even supposedly puncture car tires.

My rugosa roses certainly don't have the most formidable thorns (even among my rose buses). I have a sir thomas Lipton which ive never trimmed without shedding blood (and that's with gloves and moving most pieces with the pruners.)

I want one of those opuntias with the orange flowers... I'd live with the thorns.

Anyone got stinging nettles? are they as bad as I've read?


    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 10:34AM
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Chills, I do not know what you've read, but they are much worse than mosquito bites. But their leaves are actually edible when young after being soaked in water or cooked, very rich in vitamine C.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 10:54AM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Oh I know how you feel....When I tripped and fell backward on a patch of oputina....

I got prongs and removed the oputinas to a area that will never have to be moved again. It is so hot and dry in the area weeds dry up and get brown. It is perfect and I can still enjoy the pretty flowers. At a safe distance... I have tried to collect different color blooms. They are so pretty.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 4:20PM
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