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

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

QUESTION:

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

ANSWER:

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 Poisonous Plants Questions

Jimsonweed and its toxic nature
June 21, 2011 - I purchased a Jimson weed plant at a local plant sale at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center this spring and was quite surprised at how quickly & large it grew. After the first round of flowers fa...
view the full question and answer

Non-poisonous Hedge for Southern California
November 27, 2010 - What is a non-poisonous (to dogs), fast-growing, evergreen plant that I can grow as a tall screening hedge for privacy? I find differing opinions on Carolina Cherry and Podocarpus gracilior. Thank you...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Poisonous Plants
October 27, 2004 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I wonder who among the wonderful staff at the Wildflower Center can answer this. I occasionally get requests for information on toxic or irritating plants. Beyond the obvious ...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting adventitious shoots of a mountain laurel in San Antonio
August 20, 2009 - Is it possible to transplant branches (shoots) growing from a mountain laurel that was chopped down? Some are two years old and several feet tall (but not yet blooming) and some as small as a foot. ...
view the full question and answer

Removing poison ivy around live oak in Hockley TX
July 02, 2009 - We have a large live oak in our backyard, estimated to be over 100 years old. I am working on clearing out the brush that is under the tree. Can I spray commercially available poison ivy killer in t...
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