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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers Nan Hampton, Jimmy Mills and Barbara Medford to be the culpable and capable parties. Yet, others think staff members Damon Waitt, Joe Marcus and Philip Hawkins might play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

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PORTAGE, MI
Small perennials & grasses for a naturalized lawn
I am looking for native perennials and grasses that will grow no more than 8 inches tall that can be used in a naturalized lawn in Michigan. What 5 plants would be your first choice?
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Kalamazoo, MI
Iris brevicaulis in Southwest Michigan
We live in Kalamazoo, MI (Southwest Michigan Zone 6) and discovered last year that we have an iris brevicaulis (we think) growing (and very pretty) on our property. It has the "zig zag" stem. It see...
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Kalamazoo, MI
Resprouting of native prairie plants after snowstorm
Will my prairie plants that have broken dormancy be harmed by a spring snowstorm? Temperatures have fallen down into the twenties and forecast to stay sub-freezing for five or six days. We have abou...
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Richland, MI
Lemon cypress Goldcrest in Richland MI
Can the shrub lemon cypress survive a southern Michigan winter? If so, how does one care for it?
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Paw Paw, MI
Plant identification
Hi, I live in South West Michigan and there is this plant I can't figure out. It has oval leaves in a row on each side of its stems, large thorns, and when the plant is grown it has what seems to be...
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Plainwell, MI
Invasive silverleaf nightshade in Plainwell MI
Solanum elaeagnifolium Cav. Silverleaf nightshade, Silver-leaf nightshade, White horse nettle. We purchased our land and built here 3 years ago. I have these all over my 30 acres of land including ...
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Three Rivers, MI
Watering Houseplants with Soapy Water
I accidentally watered my house plants with a container that had a some dishsoap in it. Will they be okay? One of the plants is a 20yr old cactus, with small roots.
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Three Rivers, MI
Plant identification in Michigan
We are trying to identify a plant in our yard. It is seven inches tall in May, grows to about knee high, has red leaves, flowers in late June, early July. The flower is light pink. It is a perennia...
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Battle Creek, MI
Orange/yellow fungus on a dead oak
I have a large dead oak tree which has an orange/yellow fungus growing at the base and also high on a spot where a branch had broken off. I've read a couple of things from the internet about this fun...
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Delton, MI
Plant Identification
We have 105 acres in Mid Michigan. Part of this land is marshland. There is a plant-flower that I have never seen before and no one knows what it is. It is on a long stem with long skinny leaves (2...
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Bloomingdale, MI
Pruning Roughleaf dogwood
We put 5 rough-leaf dogwoods along our side deck; having been told (by the local, natural plant seller) that they would reach a maximum height of 6 feet. They have grown taller than that (despite som...
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Dowling, MI
Reaction to something in the garden from Dowling MI
In late March I was working in my yard raking etc. The next morning I had three black spots between my knee and shin that were swelling and feverish. Two days later the areas became bigger and began...
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Dowagiac, MI
Native ground cover for part shade in Dowagiac MI
Maybe I'm just too picky. I'm trying to make an area that is some what triangular shaped between my house and garage with a tall lattice/privacy fence on one side and walks in the back yard area on...
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Bellevue, MI
Books on edible wild plants for Michigan
What book do you recommend to find edible wild plants in Michigan? I've found several books on edible plants, but they are all centered on the western states.
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Olivet, MI
Wildflower garden for a drain field in Olivet MI
I have a large area that is currently lawn over a drain field. I would like to turn this area into a wild flower garden. Will the wild flower roots, etc. cause any concerns or damages to a drain fie...
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Edwardsburg, MI
Non-native fountain grass for Edwardsburg MI
I purchased a purple fountain grass by a vendor @ the Plymouth, IN blueberry festival. He told me that it is a perennial. I live in Edwardsburg, MI and I keep reading that in my area, they are consi...
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Edwardsburg, MI
Smarty Plants on wisteria
A friend has a wisteria bush in his yard that was planted around 1950 by his mother. It has yellow blossoms. He has been told many times by people passing by (they stop to look at the plant) that the...
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Edwardsburg, MI
Plant identification
My brother in law just bought a parcel of land that is bespeckled with shrubs we cannot identify. The land is located in south west Michigan. It is zoned agricultural. Due to the fact that it is ea...
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Lagrange, IN
Fall Planting Colorado Blue Spruce in Indiana.
I live in Northern Indiana, and I want to plant a couple of Colorado Blue Spruces that are 3-6 feet in height and Balled and Burlapped. Is it okay to plant them this time of year?
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Caledonia, MI
Black coloration on Star Magnolia is probably sooty mold.
I have a star magnolia where 90% of the bark has turned black. It almost looks burned. The tree has decent buds set for next spring. What is causing the bark to turn black?
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Elkhart, IN
Flowers under pine trees from Elkhart Indiana
I have a number of pine trees at the back of my lot and would like to plant flowers under the tree. What can I plant?
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