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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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Monday - August 20, 2007

From: Grand Blanc, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Identification of non-native wildflower
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am a painter and I need your help. When I was in Pecatonica, Illinois recently I saw a very beautiful blue colored wildflower. I was amazed by its beauty but didn't have a camera with me to take a photograph. Now I am searching for its picture to draw inspiration for my painting. Here is its description: Season: I found it in late May (around May 25th) this year Description: The flower is purple in color, has around 4-5 petals, in its middle there were very thin green leaves (they were not exactly leaves but thorn-like projections or I might call them tentacles). If you can identify which flower is this it would be of great help.

ANSWER:

Ordinarily, when someone asks us to identify a wildflower they have seen, we in turn ask them to send us a picture, as identification from a description is very difficult and not always accurate. However, as you said you had no opportunity to take a picture, perhaps we can help to jar your memory. In the Lady Bird Johnson National Wildflower Plant Database you will find a "Combination Search" screen. You only need to check the boxes on which you have information. For instance, you know it grows in Illinois, you know it blooms in May, and you know it's blue or purple (check both colors). Don't worry about the boxes for which you have no information. Click on "Submit Combination Search". When we did this with the characteristics you sent us, we got a screen with 127 possibilities. You can click on the scientific name on the list, and get a fuller description and picture of that plant. You can click on the picture and get a larger version. If one picture looks like a good possibility, go to our Image Gallery, type in the scientific name of the plant, and you will get all the images we have of that. In some cases, unfortunately, we have no image at all, but most plants we have at least one image. For instance, we chose Callirhoe digitata, also called Poppy mallow or Winecup, typed in the scientific name, clicked "Go" and got 9 images, in varying sizes and views, of that particular flower. We have no idea if that's the flower you saw, just using it for illustration of the process.

Best of luck-let us know if you find your inspirational flower.

 

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