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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

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!

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

 
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Sunday - July 06, 2014

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of plant with white spike blooms and red berries
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I just came back from a hike in Dallas and found large areas where a lanceolate- to acuminate- leafed herb was blooming spikes of white, 4 petal flowers that quickly turn to bright red berries, sometimes on the same spike! I cannot find it in your databases, and apologize if it is a non-native plant. Any ideas of what it is?

ANSWER:

Very good description!  This sounds to me like Rivina humilis (Pigeonberry).  The photographs in our Image Gallery show mostly pinkish flowers but there are ones with mostly white flowers as well.   The leaf shape matches your description, the flowers do have four petals and are on a spike with red berries that quickly follow the flower bloom. Their distribution range includes the Dallas area and they are blooming here in the Austin area at the present.  Here are photos and more information from the Trinity Forks Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) and the University of Connecticut (if you click on the photo of the flowers or the one of the berries on this page you will get a large image to view).

Interestingly, it is considered an environmental weed in Queensland, Australia and as invasive in South Africa.  The origin of the plants in both areas were originally imports from North, Central and/or South America.  Invasives can happen in both directions!

If pigeonberry isn't the plant you saw and you have photos, 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


Pigeonberry
Rivina humilis

Pigeonberry
Rivina humilis

Pigeonberry
Rivina humilis

Pigeonberry
Rivina humilis

Pigeonberry
Rivina humilis

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