En Español

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

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!

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

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - July 15, 2014

From: Cedar Hill, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Why is Mentzelia oligosperma called chickenthief?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Could you tell me why Mentzelia oligosperma is sometimes called chickenthief?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants would like to be able to tell you the origin of the common name of Mentzelia oligosperma (Chickenthief), but I'm afraid I have had absolutely no luck in finding it after extensive searches on the internet and in my many botanical books.  Apparently I am not alone.  Here is the response from eXtension Ask an Expert.  I can give you some insight the origins of its botanical name.  The genus "Mentzelia" comes from the name of the German botanist, Christian Mentzel (1622-1701).  The specific name "oligosperma" means "few-seeded" (oligo = few, sperma = seeds).   The Mexican name for the plant is "pegajosa" which means "sticky."

Here are some admittedly wild guesses as to the origin of the name "chickenthief."

  • I doubt the plant's leaves are sticky enough to entrap an adult chicken, but maybe baby chicks have been trapped and couldn't get out to follow the hen.
  • The name does sound a lot like "stickleaf" and maybe someone heard it as "chickenthief" rather than "stickleaf" and repeated the name to others.
  • Maybe it was an attempt to give the plant a sort of Cockney Rhyming Slang name.

 

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Sombrerito Mexicano
May 16, 2010 - Ratibida columnifera, almost universally called Mexican hat in English, is native to Texas and also to parts of Mexico, which leads me to wonder what the vernacular name is in Mexican Spanish. Google...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification from Round Rock TX
October 26, 2010 - I am looking for the name of a ground cover I saw that looked like large bur oak leaf in a silvery green color. It was in the shade. I tried a search with no luck. Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
October 23, 2008 - We live near Milwaukee Wisconsin. This summer a 5' plant grew by itself in the middle of my flower bed. It has elongated oval green leaves, but its the flowers that are exceptional. They are long,...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 30, 2008 - I was just in Alabama this weekend and all alongside the road-side were these georgeous pink flowers. I finally stopped to pick one and thet are even prettier up close! The stem is smooth and leafle...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification from Tamaqua PA
August 08, 2010 - I live in PA, have a plant growing in my geranium planter, was told it was a moonflower, but it is not a vine. The flower is a white trumpet, six star, with purple in the middle. leaves look like ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center