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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.

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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Wednesday - May 21, 2014

From: Tomslake, BC
Region: Canada
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: Non-native astilbe resemblance to non-native poisonous castor bean from Tomslake BC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a plant that looks like a castor bean but it has flowers like a Younique Silvery Pink Astilbe. Need to id because castor bean is poisonous. This plant grows up to 5 feet in height. Thank you !

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America, but also to the place in which they are being grown; in your case, Central British Columbia, just west of the Alberta border. The castor bean is native to Africa. There is one member of the genus Astilbe native to North America, Astilbe biternata (Appalachian false goat's beard). If you follow that plant link to our webpage on that plant you will see that it is native to southeastern states in the United States. Younique Silvery Pink Astilbe, according to this article from Perennial Resources, was hybridized in Holland by Dutch gardener Jan Verschoor. This places both plants out of our realm of expertise.

From Google are pictures of Astilbe biternata (Appalachian false goat's beard) and of castor bean.

Since we have neither personal experience nor native plant information on these plants, we can only express an opinion. Our opinion is that the leaves of the hybrid Astilbe and the castor are entirely unlike, and there is only very little resemblance between the blooms of the two plants. It will be up to you and perhaps a local horticulture expert to figure out which (or what) you have in your garden.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Appalachian false goat's beard
Astilbe biternata

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