Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Verbena? (or Not...)

Apparently this plant can cause contact dermatitis in people with sensitive skin.

At first, I had this confused with verbena, but commenters quickly corrected me there. :)

In any case, the rough edges of those leaves can create skin irritation. I found this out while reaching through a this plant to remove a rather difficult weed. Then I looked it up on the internet, and found out that both lantana and verbena are indeed known to cause skin irritation in some people.

Here's a lovely shot of my arm.

The picture is a little blurry, so the irritation does not show up very well, but I was starting to get a really nice rash all over the inside of my forearm from reaching through the plant to get at a very obnoxious weed. It itched like crazy, but most of it went away in a few hours (it helped that I washed the area after the irritation began), and it is nearly all gone now, just over 24 hours later. And the discomfort was nothing like what I had later the same day, when my big toe had a run in with some angry fire ants.

I am now searching for alternative low-growing shrubby ground cover type things to replace it. Preferably something that doesn't need heavy pruning every winter. More on that as I learn what might work, and what won't.


Update: Dermatitis from this plant can last longer than 24 hours, despite oral antihistamines and repeated applications of hydrocortisone cream. The rash is still there. I touched the plant on Monday. It is now Thursday. Grrr. Sleeves are highly recommended.


Nancy said...

I think that might not be verbena, but rather lantana. The flowers look very similar because of their form, and the leaves look alike..but.

Verbena is most likely to be an annual...lantana is a perennial, and will reseed readily. It makes dark purple berries that the jays and mockingbirds like to eat.

If your plant has a woody stem, it might be lantana.

If you want another option for a ground cover, or low growing shrub, you might try the Mexican (false) Heather. It grows readily, shades out ANY other weeds, and stays green all year unless a freeze takes it down. If a freeze does hit, just give the plant a close "haircut" pruning once it gets warm, and it will be beautiful and bloom with little purple flowers.

I like it, but I'm replacing some of mine with some rose bushes. If you'd like, I could give you some fairly large plants.



Garden Obsession said...

Yeah, I was gonna say, I think that's probably Lantana because I have the very same reaction to it. I love the blooms though, so I keep buying it. But now know to wear gloves and long sleeves when I tackle it.

Christina said...

Thanks for the plant info! :) I'm always happy to know what I've got here. Whatever this is, it dies back in winter and looks really ugly. The thicker stems do appear to be somewhat woody.

Anonymous said...

I have a skin reaction to Verbena also. Stings like stinging nettles on my hand when I moved
my hanging basket. Within minutes there's tiny water blisters. This is the second time
this has happened this summer. (Slow Learner) Last time it took about 24 hours for the sting to go away.