What the heck kind of plant did my son get into?
July 30, 2007 7:36 AM   Subscribe

What the heck kind of plant did my son get into? While on vacation in Quebec, my son started complaining that his hand was hurting. He had brushed it against some sort of plant. Within ten minutes he was screaming in pain.

He can be dramatic at times, like most five year olds, but this was genuine pain. We noticed he had 10 – 20 small “thorns” sticking out of his hand. They were tiny, thin, hardly visible, sticking out not much more than a millimeter, and probably not inserted much more than that. They were whitish, or clear, sort of like fiberglass fibers, scattered around his palm and fingers. I could only see them up close, and only from certain angles.

I was able to pull a few out with tweezers and they left no visible marks or scars. After a half hour, some Benadryl, and a cookie he had calmed down a bit and the next morning he was fine, with no signs left of the incident. No allergic reaction, no swelling, nothing.

My son couldn’t tell us which plant it was and nobody was able to find it. My wife is pretty knowledgeable about plants but she didn’t know what it was. Friends up there told us it’s happened before to other people but nobody has ever been able to identify the plant.

Facts: Quebec, about 80 miles North of Ottawa, mid-July. We were in a wooded area, where the woods met a grassy field, within 100 feet of a lake but the ground was dry. It was (obviously) some sort of plant, not a bug or an animal. He was picking raspberries at the time, so it was near a raspberry bush. It was not stinging nettles, as far as we know, since those are easy enough to identify.

What the hell could it have been? I want to find it and eliminate it from the Earth. Or at least be able to avoid it.
posted by bondcliff to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If not Nettle, it may have been Devil's Club. The little needles cause stinging, burning and dermatitis. See the second photo for what the needles look like. The newer the leaf and higher on the plant, the smaller and clearer the needles are, while the woody bottom plant has long opaque needles.
posted by iconomy at 7:49 AM on July 30, 2007

As iconomy said, it was probably a Stinging Nettle or similar. Nettles are nasty little buggers.
posted by jammnrose at 8:32 AM on July 30, 2007

Yeah, my vote is on stinging nettles. I sometimes used to tangle with them when I lived in Germany, and found them more annoying than debilitating. It would help to know how old your son is, as it's a big difference between a 2-year old screaming in pain and a 12 year old doing the same.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:35 AM on July 30, 2007

Never mind, you said 5 year old. OK.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:36 AM on July 30, 2007

maybe he brushed up against a poisonous caterpillar of some sort?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:40 AM on July 30, 2007

Cow parsnip can have a somewhat similar effect to the one described. The description of the location also matches its normal habitat.
posted by 517 at 9:06 AM on July 30, 2007

Could be Firebush.
posted by Caper's Ghost at 12:28 PM on July 30, 2007

Most likely stinging nettle. Here are some reputed antidotes, but not mentioned is the old standby, Dock (AKA Burdock), another plant that grows in wet or disturbed soil. You can usually find some within a few feet of the nettle patch that bit you. Dock has long pointed leaves that grow straight out of the stem, sort of like chard but not wrinkly. Split the stem and rub the juice into the swelling, and it goes right down. Here in the northwest they also recommend a kind of fern that similarly grows alongside nettle, and you use the stem-juice exactly the same way.

Long term: don't worry about the swelling -- nettle is reputed to decrease urea in the blood, and supposedly people used to roll around in nettles to cure their arthritis and gout. Ouch!
posted by Araucaria at 1:16 PM on July 30, 2007

I grew up in that exact region (were you at our cottage?). It is likely to just be from the raspberries. As kids picking raspberries in the bush endlessly every summer, this used to happen frequently. You did right, pick em out, and the rest will take care of itself.
posted by kch at 7:47 PM on July 30, 2007

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