Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday Search Challenge (8/28/13): Quickly! Poisonous or not?

Mystery flower.  About 0.5" (1.3 cm) across.
Many parents have had this awful moment.  Your kid comes in from playing outside and their mouth has little green leaves or petals or white sap from something she's been eating.  The thing you need to figure out--Quickly!--is whether or not it's poisonous.  

This time of year a particular flower blooms all over the Valley.  You can see it everywhere--open fields, roadsides, anyplace where there's not a lot of water and relatively untended land. 

Imagine yourself the parent of a child who comes in carrying this flower, with one half-eaten hanging from her mouth.   

What should you do?  

Today's search challenge is fairly simple: 
1.  What is this plant?   
2.  Is it poisonous or not?  

Since it's a simple enough question, be SURE to time yourself this week.  How long would it take you to find the answer?  

Let us know in the comments below.  Be sure to say HOW you found the answer, and how LONG you took to figure out if your daughter needs to go to the emergency center or not.  

Search on.  Quickly!!

Mystery flower growing along the edge of the trail.

P.S. Extra credit, for those of you who found this too easy...   Can you find evidence of ways it was used in early California? 


  1. I have already phoned the Poison Control Center.

    10 seconds...


  2. Taking a Shot at this:
    Hemizonia congesta
    hayfield tarweed

    Non-Poisonous (No ER trip needed)

    Extra Credit:
    Seeds used by Native Americans to be ground into flower


    As well as Search by Image
    And blindly looking through California flower imagery

    Ended up utilizing the Extra credit as a hint and searched for

    The third link was for Larner Seeds:‎

    (Luckily) About halfway down was a picture that looked similar to your second image

    Used image search on the plants scientific name : Hemizonia congesta

    I was able to confirm other photos which were extremely similar to the first image.

    The Larner Seeds link also cited the plants were good to eat which ruled out poisonous

    For the Extra Credit: Wikipedia article (
    The first external link is to the “Flowers of Marin” blog article which cites the use of the plant for flour.

    Took about 1.5 hours give or take


    1. Reading Sam answer. I think he has the correct flower. Congratulations, Sam!

      Using his answer did this search ["hemizonia congesta" California historical use]
      Found United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service

      In page 60 (using ctrl f), mentions the Hayfield Tarweed used as food in 1902.

      Finally with ["hayfield tarweed" poisonous]
      Found: The seeds of the Hemizonia and Madia tarweeds are edible–they were among the many types of seeds that Native American tribes collected and ground into flour. And mentions the use of the seeds in 1851

      Now I'll have to see and learn how Dr. Russell found the flower quickly.

    2. I like this… but one thing I'm curious about; you write "For the Extra Credit: Wikipedia article (
      The first external link is to the “Flowers of Marin” blog article which cites the use of the plant for flour."

      when I looked at the Wikipedia links the first was: Jepson Manual Treatment: Hemizonia congesta…
      ended up having to search for the Marin blog - the use of the seeds for flour seems plausible for the EC question,
      but the description of the flowers doesn't seem to match Dan's pics.
      Flowers of Marin, tarweed

      how about this?: Erigeron karvinskianus
      Mexican fleabane or Santa Barbara daisy
      the smoke drives away fleas -

    3. I guess reading my initial reply my searches did not come through... :-\

      first tried [Flower Identification Tool]

      Using the Extra Credit Link [Wild Flower used in early California]

      As for the Wikipedia entry Remmij is right the first link title is "Jepson Manual Treatment: Hemizonia congesta"
      I swore that that was where the "Flowers of Marin" blog originated but I must have muddled my notes (That's what I get for doing search challenges during the work day :) )


  3. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    Searched your image in Google image and found Anthemis. I have problems with the center of your flower that looks like is blooming another flower.

    Flower identifier

    [chamomile nobile 'flore pleno' california]

    [chamomile poisonous]


    1. What is this plant?
    Roman Chamomile. Not sure because of the black dots your images shows. This is for the moment the best I have found.

    2. Is it poisonous or not?

    No, even if I have the flower bad. The answer is no, because Dr. Russell found it was used in early California

  4. seems close to white mule's ears aster??? took some samples along to medical center per PCC instructions - too many varieties not to have physical examples:
    in excess of $3k for evaluation and treatment - as part of screening, a baseline DNA test was done — turns out she isn't my daughter!… now I'm using a tincture of aster to reduce chest tension, wheezing and shortness of breath — more searchresearch results than I bargained for. Should have encouraged the wee tyke not to browse on the trail - you'd think at 17 she might have known better.
    fwiw: think jtu had the correct approach.

  5. What is the mystery flower? I thought what would a poison center ask me?

    Where were these flowers located?
    Describe the flowers? I would describe them as single layered white petals, more than a dozen small petals, with pink streaks, measuring ½ inch with hairy type stem. Reminds me of a daisy.

    Download metadata of photos - obtained coordinates - 37-386739 -122.154359 which is Metadero Hiking Trail.

    Then using Google Images allowed me to not focus on specific images but on the names of the family species. I needed to find ‘similar images’ and decided these were in the aster/daisy family.

    We had used various websites for a previous search (Tip - build your own reference library). produced good results before. Source #1- Found Pacific Aster that looked promising but I decided it wasn’t quite right so down the right side of this website you can scroll & I found California Aster. Scientific name Corethrogyne filaginifolia

    Now I have a common name and a scientific name so I can confirm and gather more info. Here’s a nice photo of a California Aster Source #4

    Consortium of California Herbaria was another website we used previously Source #2. This would give me confirmation possibly that the California Aster has been documented in the area. The coordinates on the is page are 37.330 -122.172
    which match quite closely to the Metadero Hiking Trail. Confirmed.

    Now we need to know if the plant is poisonous and for that I went to Calfora and found this reference “Toxicity Dermatitis (California Poison Control System 2010) Source #3

    And as for uses (ethnobotany) of this wildflower that was more difficult but I found one link Source #5
    Common Sandaster; Asteraceae
    Kawaiisu Drug (Diaphoretic)
    Infusion of twigs and leaves used as steambath to induce sweating for colds.
    Zigmond, Maurice L. 1981 Kawaiisu Ethnobotany. Salt Lake City. University of Utah Press (p. 22)

    After all this I have to admit I wouldn’t rely on my findings if a child’s life was at stake. As well I would need to streamline my search because it took me a couple hours to check out various websites. I find images of flowers can be hard to identify because as in this case the petals can be white, pink, lavender, and even orange. The California Poison Control Center phamplet states they will not use a description of a plant over the phone to advise treatment.

    I tried a couple android apps to identify plants but I didn't find anything useful.

    Source # 1

    Source #2

    Source #3

    Source #4

    Source #5

  6. Well, despite my urgent imaginary call to California Poison Control System I believe this to be a variety of the genus ERGIRON. It is endemic to the whole state.

    ERGIRON aka Fleabane was long used to repel fleas.

    My search process: checked the names you gave the images; did the Exif; then Jepson and Califlora and trawling whilst waiting to clear the dead links at CPCS However, this is a serious topic. Kids and beasts happily devour all sorts of plant material. A great resource of procedure and diagnosis is

    It would appear after all this that the genus is not a serious toxin

    CPCS does suggest you find the common and or latin name before you call, If you can.

    Real Time spent: much too long for a potential emergency situation


    jon who likes to eat nasturtiums and marigolds