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(Orchid family)


17,000 species in 735 genera are of cosmopolitan distribution, abundant in the tropics but rare in Arctic regions.

[Summary yet to be added]

Aplectrum hyemale (Muhl. ex Willd.) Torr.
[syns Corallorhiza hyemalis (Muhl. ex Willd.) Nutt., Cymbidium hyemale Muhl. ex Willd.]
Adam and Eve, Puttyroot, Aplectrelle d'Hiver

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Coryanthes speciosa Hook.
[syns Coryanthes maculata var. punctata Lindl., Coryanthes punctata Beer, Epidendrum galeatum Vell., Gongora speciosa (Hook.) Hook.]
Bat Orchid, Bucket Orchid

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Cypripedium acaule Aiton
[syn. Fissipes acaulis (Aiton) Small]
Moccasin Flower, Pink Lady's Slipper, Pink Moccasin Flower

Nestler (1907) investigated the glandular secretions of the leaves of this species but found no substances that could irritate the skin.

Cypripedium parviflorum Salisb.
[syns Cypripedium bulbosum var. parviflorum (Salisb.) Farw., Cypripedium calceolus subsp. parviflorum (Salisb.) Hultén, Cypripedium calceolus var. parviflorum (Salisb.) Fernald, Cypripedium hirsutum var. parviflorum (Salisb.) Rolfe, Cypripedium luteum var. parviflorum (Salisb.) Raf.]
Northern Small-Flowered Yellow Ladyslipper

MacDougal (1895) observed that 6 of 9 subjects challenged with the leaves and stems of this species developed contact dermatitis. He reported also that tests repeated a year later produced a similar outcome. Nestler (1907) investigated the glandular secretions of the leaves of this species but found no substances that could irritate the skin.

Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens (Willd.) O.W.Knight
[syns Cypripedium bulbosum var. pubescens (Willd.) Farw., Cypripedium calceolus var. pubescens (Willd.) Correll, Cypripedium pubescens Willd.]
Large Yellow Lady's Slipper Orchid, Large Yellow Ladyslipper, Greater Yellow Lady's Slipper Orchid, Flatpetalled Ladyslipper, Golden Slipper, Mocassin Flower

White (1888) noted that Cypripedium pubescens is capable of producing as severe an inflammation of the skin as can Rhus toxicodendron (fam. Anacardiaceae). Dermatitis of the hands and face occurred in a botanist who collected the plants. He observed that his hands were stained with the purplish secretion of the glandular hairs which densely clothed the stems and leaves (McNair 1923, Pammel 1911). MacDougal (1894) referred to a case of an individual who was sensitive to poison ivy and who also experienced dermatitis following contact with either Cypripedium spectabile or Cypripedium pubescens. MacDougal (1895) observed that 6 of 9 subjects challenged with the leaves and stems of Cypripedium pubescens developed contact dermatitis. He reported also that tests repeated a year later produced a similar outcome. By contrast, when Nestler (1907) investigated the glandular secretions of the leaves of Cypripedium pubescens, he found no substances that could irritate the skin.

Cypripedium reginae Walter
[syns Cypripedium album Aiton, Cypripedium spectabile Salisb.]
Queen's Lady's Slipper, Showy Lady's Slipper, White Lady's Slipper Orchid, Cypripède Royal

MacDougal (1894), referring to Cypripedium spectabile, observed at first hand a severe dermatitis elicited by the leaves of this orchid when brushed against the arm. On further investigation he (MacDougal 1895) observed that 6 of 9 subjects challenged with the leaves and stems developed contact dermatitis. He reported also that tests repeated a year later produced a similar outcome. Also referring to Cypripedium spectabile, Nestler (1907) demonstrated that the overground parts of this species yield a skin irritating secretion. Later, Nestler (1908) reported the results of more detailed studies into the skin irritating activity of this species. Referring to Cypripedium hirsutum, Coulter (1904) described the outcome of challenge tests carried out in 22 subjects. Eleven of the subjects exhibited unpleasant effects from the mere handling of this species; a further six reacted only after rubbing of the plant on the skin; and five showed no reaction. Coulter (1904) also noted that he had seen numerous cases of dermatitis (which resembles that caused by poison ivy) attributable to this orchid and that it is most active during the flowering season, becoming practically innocuous after seed maturation. More recently, Beierlein (1957) reported Cypripedium reginae as a cause of allergic contact dermatitis.

Dendrobium moniliforme (L.) Sw.
[syns Dendrobium candidum Wall. ex Lindl., Epidendrum moniliforme L., Onychium japonicum Blume]
Japanese Stone Orchid

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Dendrobium officinale Kimura & Migo
[syns Dendrobium catenatum Lindl., Dendrobium stricklandianum Rchb.f., Dendrobium tosaense Makino]
Chained Dendrobium

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Gavilea venosa (Lam.) Garay & Ormerod
[syns Asarca leucantha (Poepp.) Poepp. & Endl., Gavilea leucantha Poepp., Limodorum venosum Lam.]
Veined Gavilea, White Gavil

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Vanilla griffithii Rchb.f.

This plant, "common in the Malay Peninsula, contains a slightly milky latex, which when dropped on the hand or arm produces a very unpleasant irritation of the skin, as I know well by experience. […] This latex is used by native girls, mixed with oil to strengthen and thicken the hair, much as cantharides is used in Europe." (Ridley HN in Sprague 1921).

Vanilla planifolia Andrews
[syn. Vanilla fragrans Ames]
Bourbon Vanilla, Vanilla Orchid, Vanillier, Vanille

Workers who handled the pods developed dermatitis of the hands and face. The action of a mite or of cardol was suspected. Cardol derived from Anacardium, fam. Anacardiaceae was said to be applied to the pods to darken them (White 1887). Workers who clean, pack and sort the pods can develop dermatitis (Prosser White 1934, Downing 1939). Dermatitis from vanilla is known in the perfume and confectionery industries (Greenberg and Lester 1954, Schwartz et al. 1957).

Conjunctivitis and a partially generalized pustular eruption followed handling vanilla pods (Hiley 1909). A mould which covers the pods and chemicals applied to the pods have been suspected. Vanilla in a hair lotion produced dermatitis; the patient carried out a patch test to vanilla with a positive result (Leggett 1914).

Prosser White (1934) [incorrectly] cited Hutchinson (1892) as the source article in which the term "vanillaism" was coined; Maiden (1912) also referred to this condition. In an outbreak of contact dermatitis in workers with vanilla, 20% of those exposed were affected but they recovered in three weeks and were never troubled again; probably some transient contaminant was responsible (Gougerot and Basset 1939). Irritation occurring in persons who cut the vines was attributed to calcium oxalate crystals in the juice. A positive patch test to vanilla was observed in a sandwich maker who had contact dermatitis (Hjorth and Weismann 1972). Contact dermatitis from vanilla may present as erythema only, without eczematous changes (Sidi and Hincky 1964). Vanillin has sensitising properties and cross-sensitivity is observed with some constituents of balsam of Peru (from Myroxylon balsamum Harms, fam. Leguminosae) (Hjorth 1961). Eating vanilla caused a flare of eczema in a patient who was contact sensitive to the balsam (Pirila 1970). Vanilla and vanillin used in perfumery have caused dermatitis (Greenberg and Lester 1954).

An individual who chewed a portion of the plant experienced an acute burning sensation in the mouth after a slight delay (Morton 1962a).


  • Beierlein H (1957) Allergischer Hautausschlag, verursacht durch den amerikanischen Prachtfrauenschuh (Cypripedium reginae). [Allergic eczema, caused by the American showy lady's-slipper (Cypripedium reginae)]. Die Orchidee 8(3): 95
  • Coulter S (1904, published 1905) The poisonous plants of Indiana. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science: 51-63 [url] [url-2]
  • Downing JG (1939) Cutaneous eruptions among industrial workers. A review of two thousand claims for compensation. Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology 39(1): 12-32 [doi] [url]
  • Gougerot H, Basset A (1939) [Occupational eczema due to vanilla]. Bulletin de la Société Française de Dermatologie et de Syphiligraphie 46: 1329
  • Greenberg LA, Lester D (1954) Handbook of Cosmetic Materials. Their properties, uses, and toxic and dermatologic actions. With a bibliography of over 2,500 titles. New York: Interscience Publishers [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Hiley RF (1909) Dermatitis due to vanilla. The Lancet 173(4472): 1433 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Hjorth N (1961) Eczematous Allergy to Balsams, Allied Perfumes and Favouring Agents. With special reference to balsam of Peru. Copenhagen: Munksgaard [WorldCat] [url]
  • Hjorth N, Weismann K (1972) Occupational dermatitis in chefs and sandwich makers. Contact Dermatitis Newsletter (11): 301, 300 [url]
  • Hutchinson J (1892) An eruption caused by vanilla. Archives of Surgery (London) 4(Jul): 49-50 [url] [url-2]
  • Leggett W (1914) Vanilla as a skin irritant. British Medical Journal i(2790; Jun 20): 1351-1352 [doi] [doi-2] [url] [url-2]
  • MacDougal DT (1894) On the poisonous influence of Cypripedium spectabile and Cypripedium pubescens. Minnesota Botanical Studies, Bulletin 9 1(I): 32-36 + 3 plates [url] [url-2]
  • MacDougal DT (1895) Poisonous influence of various species of Cypripedium. Minnesota Botanical Studies, Bulletin 9 1(VII): 450-451 [url] [url-2]
  • Maiden JH (1912) Additional skin-irritating plants. Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales 23(7): 604 [url] [url-2]
  • McNair JB (1923) Rhus Dermatitis from Rhus Toxicodendron, Radicans and Diversiloba (Poison Ivy). Its Pathology and Chemotherapy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press [url]
  • Morton JF (1962a) Ornamental plants with toxic and/or irritant properties. II. Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society 75: 484-491 [url] [url-2]
  • Nestler A (1907) Das Sekret der Drüsenhaare der Gattung Cypripedium mit besonderer Berücksichtigung seiner hautreizenden Wirkung. [The secretion of the glandular hairs of the genus Cypripedium with special consideration of its irritating effect on the skin]. Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft 25(10): 554-567 [url] [url-2]
  • Nestler A (1908) Das Hautgift der Cypripedien. In: Wiesner-Festschrift. Im Auftrage des Festkomitees redigiert von K. Linsbauer, pp. 200-206. Wien: Carl Konegen (Ernst Stülpnagel) [url] [url-2]
  • Pammel LH (1911) A Manual of Poisonous Plants. Chiefly of North America, with Brief Notes on Economic and Medicinal Plants, and Numerous Illustrations. Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch Press [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Pirilä V (1970) [Endogenic contact eczema]. Allergie und Asthma (Leipzig) 16(1): 15-19 [pmid]
  • Prosser White R (1934) The Dermatergoses or Occupational Affections of the Skin, 4th edn. London: HK Lewis [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Schwartz L, Tulipan L, Birmingham DJ (1957) Irritant plants and woods. In: Occupational Diseases of the Skin. 3rd edn, pp. 636-672. London: Henry Kimpton [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Sidi E, Hincky M (1964) [Unusual clinical appearances of allergic contact dermatitis]. Revista Clínica Española 1: 209
  • Sprague TA (1921) Plant dermatitis. Journal of Botany, British and Foreign 59(707): 308-310 [url] [url-2]
  • Touton K (1932) Hauterkrankungen durch phanerogamische Pflanzen und ihre Produkte (Toxicodermia et Allergodermia phytogenes) [Skin Diseases Caused by Phanerogamic Plants and their Products (Toxicodermia et Allergodermia phytogenes)]. In: Jadassohn J (Ed.) Handbuch der Haut- und Geschlechtskrankheiten. Band IV, Teil I. Angeborene Anomalien. Lichtdermatosen. Pflanzengifte. Thermische Schädigungen. Einfluss Innerer Störungen auf die Haut [Handbook of Skin and Venereal Diseases. Volume IV, Part I. Congenital abnormalities. Photodermatoses. Plant toxins. Thermal injuries. Influence of internal disorders on the skin], pp. 487-697. Berlin: Julius Springer [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • White JC (1887) Dermatitis Venenata: an account of the action of external irritants upon the skin. Boston: Cupples and Hurd [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • White JC (1888) Letter to the Editor. Garden and Forest 1(May 2): 118 [url] [url-2]
  • [ + 6 further references not yet included in database]

Richard J. Schmidt

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