Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Plant identification
July 31, 2010 - I have this shrub looking type plant with leaves that smell like lemons. The plant has a very small white flower on it. This shrub shows up in my yard every year in the summer. We are curious as to we...
view the full question and answer

Identifcation of flower in a bouquet
August 30, 2009 - My boyfriend bought a bouquet and I'd like to know the name of the kind of green flower that looks like a mum but the petals look like rich, full grass or like a tall shag carpet. It has a stem with ...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification from Pearland TX
August 10, 2013 - I am looking for a native plant; was told it was called Hummingbird Weed. Came from Coryell County. I let mine freeze and cannot find more. It has long spikes with small red trumpet-shaped blooms on ...
view the full question and answer

Dfferences between Argemone arizonica and other Argemones
October 27, 2005 - I am trying to find information about the differences between the Argemone arizonica which grows only in the Grand Canyon and the other Argemones which grow in the rest of the U.S. Do you have any...
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant with red berries toxic to dogs
August 29, 2011 - I recently retrieved my poor doggy from the Vet. He had eaten a berry from an invasive-commonly seen brushy plant growing along my neighbors fence line. We try to keep our side clear-but the small lar...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.