Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Tread softly - Cnidoscolus stimulosus

The many stinging hairs are obvious on this leaf
Tread softly, aka stinging nettle, (Cnidoscolus stimulosus) is a common wildflower in open habitats throughout Florida and in much of the Southeast. It forms a low mass of vegetation that normally does not exceed 8-12 inches in height and about the same in width. It is a perennial that remains green in the central and southern thirds of Florida, but dies back to the ground in areas with hard freezes. It is in the Euphorbia family, but unlike many, has showy petals and is monoecious.
Tread softly has leaves with deeply dissected lobes. They somewhat resemble maple leaves in aspect, but the surface is covered with stiff stinging hairs. Brushing against this plant, or worse - picking the flowers, will result in sharp pain that can last for hours. Like the true stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), these hairs are trigger loaded, and they are actually injected into its victim's skin. You can lessen the time your skin will burn by removing those hairs - which can be done by placing an adhesive tape on the spot of contact and pulling the tape up.
Though this is not a wildflower one should consider adding to a landscape, it has beautiful white fragrant flowers and it remains in bloom throughout the frost-free months. The flowers have 5 petals with a deep inner tube that holds nectar and attracts butterflies. Each bloom is about 1/2 inch wide.
This is a wildflower you should learn and respect when outdoors hiking. Then admire it from a short distance.

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