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

Friday - July 18, 2014

From: Inwood, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Tall plant with bell-shaped upside-down white flowers
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

2 tall plants grew outside my suburban New York house in June, blossomed late June. They looked like giant asparagus stalks, and the flowers were white, bell shaped, upside down, look like fairy skirts with individual overlapping petals. The petals are very stiff, feel almost like plastic. The flower has no smell at all. No one can identify it, do you know what it is?

ANSWER:

First of all, Asparagus officinalis (Asparagus), a native of Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, that has been naturalized all over the US has bell-shaped flowers that can be described as being green to brown, yellow, or white.  Asparagus is dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on different plants).  You can determine if your plants are male by looking inside the flowers for stamens containing the pollen or, if female, with the pistil and stigma and lack of stamens.  Additionally, only females will produce the red berries.  Mr. Smarty Plants suspects this is identity of your plant; but, in case it isn't, here are some native plant possibilities.

To find native plants that match your description, Mr. Smarty Plants did a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database by choosing New York from the Select State or Province slot, Herb" from the Habit (general appearance) slot, "May", "June", "July" from Bloom Time and "White" from Bloom Color.  This search produced a list of more than 340 native plants in New York that matched these criteria.  Mr. Smarty Plants assumed by comparing the stalks to asparagus meant that they didn't have prominent leaves.  You should do the search yourself to see all the other possibilities, but here are four that look somewhat similar to your description.

Aletris farinosa (White colicroot)

Goodyera repens (Lesser rattlesnake plantain)

Monotropa uniflora (Indianpipe)  These don't grow exceptionally tall, but the flowers do match your description.  Here is more information from Botanical Society of America.

Uvularia sessilifolia (Spreading bellwort)

Another native plant that matches your description for the stalk and flowers is Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle).  However, the stalk arises from a clump of long pointed leaves that you wouldn't likely miss.

If none of the above is your plant and you have photographs of it, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


White colicroot
Aletris farinosa

White colicroot
Aletris farinosa

Lesser rattlesnake plantain
Goodyera repens

Lesser rattlesnake plantain
Goodyera repens

Indianpipe
Monotropa uniflora

Indianpipe
Monotropa uniflora

Spreading bellwort
Uvularia sessilifolia

Spreading bellwort
Uvularia sessilifolia

Adam's needle
Yucca filamentosa

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant Identification
June 07, 2009 - Having great difficulty identifying a perennial plant. Although it looks marvelous (coming in two shades), I haven't been able to correctly identify it. Local college feels it is Eupatorium Rugosum, ...
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

Identification of wild plum found in Conroe, TX
March 23, 2007 - I have found a wild plum that has dirty pink flowers and reddish smooth bark in a field in the town of Conroe, Tx. Identification thru the Ag Man here was sketchy and inaccurate. Short stubby limbs w...
view the full question and answer

Identity of plant in Kentucky with fuzzy grayish-green leaves
September 03, 2012 - I would like to know about a plant that I do not know what it is. I had this plant just come up in my flowerbed, that looked like a tobacco plant but the leaves looked like a lambs ear plant. It was ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
November 08, 2012 - I have visited this page and 18 more! I am still trying to find a plant that I found on a creek that runs through our land. I have pics. Great ones! Can I send the pic? If you like it, use it. I ...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center