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

Smarty Plants on Plant Identification
April 25, 2005 - We bought our house last October and there were beautiful pink flowers blooming along our sidewalk. They bloomed until past Thanksgiving. They resembled Azaleas but we don't know what they were. Th...
view the full question and answer

Taxonomic question about Viola missouriensis and Viola affinis.
March 28, 2011 - I have tentatively identified a violet as either Viola affinis or V. missouriensis. However, the pages for those species are dated 2007 and 2009, respectively, in the NPIN, while it read...
view the full question and answer

Identity of milkweed vine with smooth seedpod
November 23, 2012 - I believe the vine I am curious about may be Matelea reticulata. However, most of the pictures I have seen of that vine show bumps on the exterior of the seed pod, and the pod I have is green and smo...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
August 06, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I have some plants I cannot identify. They were given to me after a funeral. I love them, i would like to know WHAT THEY ARE??? Here are descriptions. I can get photos. (PS I liv...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 07, 2008 - I live in NE PA and have two plants that are growing under our pine tree. One has 2 leaves and and looks a lot like lily of the valley and the other has 6-10 leaves with white berries on the end. I wa...
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