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Anyone familiar with Cevallia sinuata, stinging serpent, or Shirley's nettle?

 
Posts: 29
Location: Terlingua, TX
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One of the plants growing around here that I identified today is called Cevallia sinuata, stinging serpent, or Shirley's nettle. While I noticed lots of hairs on it when I picked a branch of it, it didn't sting my hands. Taking it inside and looking it up in a book I read a little about it and learned of it's stinging capability. Having grown up in the mid-west where you wouldn't dare touch a stinging nettle without getting instantly stung, I thought that this plant must require more tender skin to sting than the hands so I brushed it across my belly quite a few times. It took a minute or two for the stinging to kick in and it was only bothersome for 5-10 minutes. In the interest of science, I also pulled up my shirt sleeves and tested it on the underside of my arms and sure enough after a brief delay, the sting kicked in and there were even some small raised ares on the skin of my arms. Up until this time I had not encountered any plants out here that would perform a stinging function. Thorns to poke you and cut you and even make you bleed, sure, we've got lots of those on many different plants. From a brief web search, it doesn't appear to have been studied or used much compared to glorious stinging nettles. Before cooking some up and eating any of the plant I figured I'd best confirm that it is edible. I have read that it is a perennial.
Does anyone know anything more about this plant or it's uses?
 
Charles Reed
Posts: 29
Location: Terlingua, TX
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I sampled a small piece of a leaf and it tasted like more so I ate several more leaves. I found it to be decidedly delicious with the hairs providing an interesting mouthfeel. It tastes very green and reminds me somewhat of Moringa. The leaves I ate were mostly dehydrated due to sitting around for a day in our desert environment after having been picked. The flowers aren't bad tasting but have a cottony or feathery mouthfeel I don't care much for.

Before tasting this plant, browsed a couple pages worth of web search results and found no comments on the edibility. Other than eating some and monitoring if one feels sick or dies, how does one go about determining if a plant is poisonous or not? I think I have heard that one test is to rub the plant on the skin and see if there is any reaction but this is a stinging plant so that could be considered a test that would potentially give a false positive just like stinging nettle.

I'm thinking even if I were to learn that this plant made remarkably beneficial compost, that I wouldn't have enough of it to make a meaningful amount of compost especially if I keep eating the leaves.
 
Charles Reed
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Location: Terlingua, TX
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In the interest of science, I went ahead and ate a leaf fresh off the plant and the experience was about as I had expected. It cause stinging on tongue and roof of mouth that didn't last very long maybe ten minutes. I wouldn't describe it as enjoyable but it wasn't a terrible experience either. Unless one is going for a stinging experience I'd recommend eating it either dried or cooked. I haven't tried it cooked but imagine it would eliminate the sting just like cooking stinging nettle does.
 
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