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?


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

Saturday - August 09, 2014

From: Shawnee, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs, Vines
Title: Identification of bush/vine with purple berries
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I was clearing fence line and came across this plant it looks like a Bush but underneath grows like a vine it has long broad leaves that reminded me of Polk salad but it grows berry clusters the berries go from green to a dark purple the leaves are a darker green and some have purple on the underneath side of the stem I am the only person I know who breaks out after handling this plant so if you could help me figure out what it might be I'd greatly appreciate it


I'm not quite sure what you mean by the plant growing like a vine underneath.   Did you mean that it lies across the ground before growing upwards?   I'm a little confused about that description.   Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed) might possibly lie across the ground before growing up into a bush if it were blocked some way where it grew out of the ground.  It does have clusters of green berries that turn purple.  Although young leaves and shoots are edible if properly prepared, older parts of the plant are highly toxic according to North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.  They do not mention any skin contact causing rashes.  The Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD) says that although it has been used to treat some skin conditions (e.g., psora), its juice causes a burning sensation on the skin and dust from the dried root and aspects of the fresh plant can cause eye irritation.

Two vines that grow in Oklahoma have clusters of green berries that ripen to purple.   The leaves of neither of these are very large.  They are:  1)  Smilax rotundifolia (Roundleaf greenbrier) and here are photos from Virginia Tech.  2)  Smilax herbacea (Smooth carrionflower).  The BoDD doesn't list any dermatitis occurring from contact with any species of Smilax, but it has been used medicinally.

If none of these are the plant you found and you have (or can take) photos of it, please go to our Plant Identification page to find links for several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.


From the Image Gallery

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

Smooth carrionflower
Smilax herbacea

Smooth carrionflower
Smilax herbacea

More Plant Identification Questions

Orange and fuschia flowers on bushes in Maine
July 01, 2008 - I recently visited Portland,ME from end of May to the second week in June. many of the homes had these beautiful flowering bushes next to the houses. The flowers grew in clusters similar to hydrangeas...
view the full question and answer

Books for plant identification of native California species
March 14, 2008 - When I was going to college, many years ago, there was a field book for plant identification for California native species. I am trying to find that book again or at least a good pocket book on plant...
view the full question and answer

Identificaation of volunteer plant in Maine
July 31, 2007 - I have a volunteer in my garden in Maine that I have been unable to identify. It is a perennial that grows in full sun. It has formed a thick mat of plants whose leaves are about and its leaves are d...
view the full question and answer

Identity of purple-leafed plant in formal garden in Quebec City
August 23, 2013 - I saw a plant in a formal garden in Quebec City that was low growing with purple leaves and clusters of deep purple pods/seeds about the size of grapes.
view the full question and answer

Help with plant ID
September 01, 2004 - I found this plant alongside the road in a field in North Dallas. The dirt was fairly dry, and image is attached.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center