Gayla, a twenty-year resident of Mesa, AZ, unexpectedly encountered three debilitating days from a little yard work. She even went to urgent care and missed a couple days of work. No she didn’t pull a muscle or rupture a disc in her back. In fact, all she did was trim her beautiful euphorbia tirucalli plant.
Her bright, fiery red and orange succulents were in need a some pruning and she thought she could do it before her sister Patty flew into town from a midwest visit. Gayla carefully trimmed the plant down to the stalks, discarded the trimmings and went on her way preparing for her sister’s arrival that afternoon.
All was going wonderfully during Patty’s short visit before head back home to Tucson. The sisters enjoyed each other’s company, shared what was going on in their families’ lives and even pulled out a photo album to share in some memories. Then Patty was off to Tucson within a few hours of arriving back down I-10 to home.
That evening, Gayla found out the hard way why euphorbia tirucalli plants are called “Firestick plants.”
Her eyes began to feel irritated and eventually began to have a burning sensation that required medical attention. Before her ride arrived to pick her up, Gayla spent several minutes flushing her eyes with water. Over and over but it didn’t help with the pain and irritation.
After what seemed like an eternity waiting to be seen by a doctor, she learned she had gotten some of the acidic latex sap from her plant into her eyes. The doctor was pleased to know that she flushed her eyes before arriving; suggesting that may have helped her reduce the risk of further damage to her eyes.
With some eye gel and a couple days off from work, Gayla has fully recovered.
Upon reflection, she realized she had some plant parts under her fingernails and had scratched around her eyes while looking through the photo album.
Gayla’s situation isn’t uncommon. We found several stories, including this video which shares a first hand account of what the Firestick plant can do.
Please be careful! Know the hazards the plants in your space can present and consider those you may encounter in other places too.