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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 is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - May 17, 2007

From: Louisville, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of a flower with grape kool aid fragrance
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

While I lived in Texas someone gave me a flower from a "tree" (i am not sure tree is the right word). It was a large white flower that closed up in the evenings and smelled sweet like grape kool aid. I am pretty sure that the insides were either yellow or purpleish. I think it might have had the name star in it but I am not sure. I know this isn't a lot of information. Thanks!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is very familiar with the grape Kool-Aid smell of Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) but the flowers don't match your description.

The three native Texas magnolias have large white flowers and are very fragrant. They are: Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia), Magnolia pyramidata (pyramid magnolia), and Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay).

There are three hibiscus plants native to Texas with large white flowers, but they lack the fragrance you describe. They are: Hibiscus laevis (halberdleaf rosemallow), Hibiscus lasiocarpos (rosemallow), and Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rosemallow).

Another Texas native with largish white flowers, but no fragrance is Chilopsis linearis (desert willow).

Another fragrant large white flower, Gardenia taitensis (Tahitian gardenia), is native to Hawaii, but not native to Texas.

It could be that you were given the large white flowers from a plant that isn't native to Texas, but that thrives here. However, if it isn't one the native ones mentioned here, I'm afraid you have stumped Mr. Smarty Plants.


Sophora secundiflora

Magnolia grandiflora

Hibiscus laevis

Chilopsis linearis

Gardenia taitensis

 

 

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