Index- plants in this Family
Euphorbiaceae / Spurge
Tread Softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus)
Tread Softly is also known as Finger Rot (which is the official vernacular) and Spurge Nettle.

Plant Type: This is a herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 100cm in height (39inches). Almost the entire plant is covered with sharp spines (actually hairs).
Leaves: The leaves are alternate. Leaves can reach 22cm in length (9inches). (Often much smaller) Each leaf is deeply, palmately lobed into 3 to 5 segments and prominently veined.
Flowers: The flowers have 5 Regular Parts and are up to 2.5cm wide (1 inches). They are white. Blooms first appear in early spring and continue into early fall. (Throughout the year in Florida) The showy part of the flower is actually the calyx of the male flower which has no petals. The female flowers are lower and lack both petals and showy calyx.
Fruit: An oblong capsule containing 3 hard seeds.
Habitat: Well drained woods and fields with sandy soil.
Range: In the coastal plain from as far north as Virginia south to Florida and west to Texas.

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Tread Softly has been given the odd official vernacular "Finger Rot" for reasons I can only guess. The stiff hairs can inflict an irritating and painful rash on those who contact it and worse on those particularly susceptible. The plant with the official name Tread Softly is Cnidoscolus aconitifolius which is a shrub or small tree know in the U. S. from Puerto Rico only. A species common in Mexico, Cnidoscolus angustidens, is known there as Mala Mujer which means "bad woman".

Similar Species: Similar in the stinging nature of the hairs is Stinging Nettle (Tragira urticifolia) which lacks showy flower parts entirely and has toothed but un-lobed leaves. Its range extends slightly north and far west of the range of Cnidoscolus stimulosus.

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More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves



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