The name says it all!
Tread softly, a pretty white flower commonly found in sandy waste areas, is an enemy to those who pass barefoot or in sandals. Also known as spurge nettle and finger rot, Cnidoscolus stimulosus is not a true nettle. It belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae and is this related to poinsettia and mother of thousands.
The species name stimulosus comes from the Latin stimul(us), meaning to goad, prod or urge. This plant is also known as bull nettle and mala mujer (Spanish for "bad woman" or witch), though the latter name is applied to several other plants with similar properties.
Like many euphorbs or spurges, it has a milky sap but unlike most other native spurges, it is cover in uticating hairs, hollow glass bristles that spill acid onto the skin when the plant is touched.
While the reaction varies from person to person (and dog to dog), the irritation usually fade within a half hour although red bumps may last a bit longer.
The green leaves of this plant are alternate, consisting of three to five lobes. The large, white flowers have five petals. Male and female flowers are on different plants.
Tread softly grows low to the ground in dry sandy areas including beaches, roadsides and pinewoods.
Flowers occur throughout the spring and summer followed by a small capsule that produces three large seeds. The entire plant above ground including the flower petals are covered with stinging hairs.
While the foliage is poison, the taproot can be used as a potato substitute. It is said to taste like pasta.