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February 2015

Dangerous Plants of the Southwestern United States

Author Affiliations
  • 1Retired
  • 2private practice
  • 3Department of Dermatology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(2):203. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.1769

The Southwestern United States features a tricultural population (ie, Native Americans, descendants of early Spanish settlers, and Anglos), pleasant climate, and spectacular scenery ranging from mountains to deserts. While everyone is aware of rattlesnakes and scorpions as dangerous desert denizens, several desert plants also can be hazardous.

Every Western movie fan knows what tumbleweeds are. While many plants disperse by drying and being blown along the ground, the best known one is Russian thistle (Kali tragus), which was introduced to the United States from Russia admixed with flax seeds in the 1870s. Tumbleweeds, when young, are edible. In the fall, they dry out and start their rolling journey, dispersing seeds as they go.