Tread-softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus)

A Painful Sting

By William T. Hathaway

Tread-softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus) is also known as spurge nettle, finger-rot, bull nettle, etc. Most of these names and others are used in conversations with residents of the sand hills and coastal plains. The species is well adapted to sandy, well-drained soil.

Stinging hairs on the leaves and stem can inflict a painful sting to those who contact it with bare skin; short pants and bare legs are a no-no to those who are most wise. Strangely, when the three seeds were ripe, Native Americans used them as an edible, tasty snack.

This photo was snapped near Jones Lake State Park in Bladen County, North Carolina, in May 1975.

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