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Tread Softly Cnidoscolus stimulosus

The range distribution maps for Tread Softly are from the Plants Database of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


The plant Tread Softly gets its name from the stinging hairs that cover the stem and leaves. Contact with your skin usually results in an intense stinging sensation followed by a red rash that may leave your skin discolored for several days.  Other names for this plant are Finger-rot and Stinging Nettle.

This plant grows on sandhills, scrub, pine flatwoods, coastal areas, and waste or disturbed sites.  Its range includes the coastal plain from southeast Virginia to south Florida and west to Texas,  A native Florida plant, it has been observed in most Florida counties.

The pure white star-shaped flowers are about 0.5-0.75 inch wide.  They grow in clusters at the end of a stalk.  There are no petals, but have five elliptical petal-like sepals.  The flowers are unisexual and each cluster contains both male and female flowers.  The flowers bloom year round, peaking in summer and fall.

The hairy dark green leaves are 3-6 inches long and 2-4 inches wide.  They have 3-5 lobes, toothed margins, and are attached alternately to the hairy stems.  The plants are usually less than 12 inches tall and may be as wide as they are tall.  The fruits are round or oval green capsules covered with hairs.  They are about 0.5 inch long.  When mature, they split open to release three oval-shaped seeds, each about 0.25 inch long.

The pictures on this page were taken in Deep Creek in Charlotte County.