En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - December 22, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Trees
Title: Are leaf margins of Chilopsis linearis toothed from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Are the leaf margins of Chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow, smooth or toothed? The NPIN descrip says willow-like. Most willows have toothed leaf margins. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) belongs to the Acanthaceae (Acanthus) family and is therefore not even closely related to the plants commonly referred to as willow, which are members of the Salicaceae (Willow) family.

If you follow this plant link, Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow), to our webpage on this plant, scroll down to "Plant Characteristics" you will find this leaf description:

"Leaf Shape: Lanceolate , Linear
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire"

Although Mr. Smarty Plants has studied plant descriptions in classes at the Wildflower Center, they are still confusing to this member of the Smarty Plants Team. So, we went to this Garden Web Glossary of Botanical Terms and found these definitions of those terms:


"lanceolate
Shaped like a lance-head, several times longer than wide, broadest above the base and narrowed to the apex."
"linear
Long and narrow with parallel margins."
"pinnate
Consisting of several leaflets arranged on each side of a common petiole or rachis on a compound leaf or frond. 2. The feather vein pattern of simple leaves."

"glabrous
Smooth; not rough, pubescent, or hairy."

"entire
Without toothing or division."

It would appear that the last term answers your question; no teeth. Describing something as "willow-like" often refers to something long, tall and thin. If you ever read those old paperback detective books, there nearly always seemed to be a "long, tall, willowy blond." Teeth in mouth, but not on edges.

Since the Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) is deciduous, and this is December, we could not go out in the garden and personally examine any leaves of the Desert Willow. Most willows are non-native to North America, and thus do not appear in our Native Plant Database. However, we did find a native, Justicia americana (American water-willow), that had this leaf description:

"Leaf Shape: Linear
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire"

Sound familiar?

You should note that the the traditional willow belongs to the genus Salix  (willow). The Desert Willow is in the Chilopsis genus. There are 55 members of the genus Salix in our Native American Database. but a quick look did not produce any leaf descriptions on those. However, when we searched on "salix" in Wikipedia, we found this description: "The leaves are typically elongated, but may also be round to oval, frequently with serrated margins." Serrated could probably mean it has a toothy edge, but we should not expect the same from a totally different plant that just happens to share a common name.
 

From the Image Gallery


American water-willow
Justicia americana

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

More Trees Questions

Mexican Plum with wilted leaves in Austin, TX.
June 06, 2012 - I am new to Texas & have a yard with mature mexican plum trees. They are quite beautiful however as summer sets in I notice that the leaves appear "wilted". Is this normal or should I be providing...
view the full question and answer

Leaf fall from Cedar Elm planted in clay
August 17, 2008 - I saw the answer to leaves falling off a cedar elm planted in clay. However I planted a Cedar Elm in my back yard. I dug a hole in the grass then planted and put grass back on top. I water every other...
view the full question and answer

Black spots and fuzzy circles on live oak leaves
November 20, 2010 - We live in Georgetown Texas and have many Live Oaks on our property. Lately some leaves have fallen off which have fuzzy round circles on the back along with some little raised black dots. Should we...
view the full question and answer

Are mountain laurel beans safe to use as rattles with small children?
September 19, 2012 - Is it safe to use the mountain laurel mescalbean pods as shakers or rattles, as long as the pods are not open and the seeds left unexposed? If a small child (very small, who has no way to open the ...
view the full question and answer

Will wood shavings in the soil require nitrogen from Charleston MO
May 04, 2011 - I cut down a big maple tree and a lot of the wood shavings was left in the soil. I planted a flower bed over the area this spring. I later read that the wood chips in the soil would use a lot of nitro...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center