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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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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!

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Sunday - November 11, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Vines
Title: Culture of a potato vine
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

This spring I was given a potato to grow. The lady called it a potato vine. Do you know anything about this vine?

ANSWER:

We might need a little more specific information to answer that one. There are just a whole bunch of potatoes, from sweet potatoes to ornamental sweet potatoes, Yukon golds, on and on. Anyone who has ever forgotten a potato in a vegetable bin will tell you they all sprout easily, and all result in vining plants. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use of plants native to North America to help preserve and protect our environment. Potatoes of various types are native to South America, but most have been cultivated in North America for a long time.

One of our plant experts believes you are probably talking about Solanum jasminoides, and this link is to a website where you can get a description and picture. One concern is that if the Solanum jasminoides is in a mild or warm climate, it could become invasive. We would like to warn you that were this plant to escape from cultivation, it could be a threat to plants in other areas. Since it is probably not cold hardy in the Austin area, this is not a great danger, but one we hope you will be aware of. It can be grown in USDA Zone 9 and sheltered portions of USDA Zone 8. If you feel the plant you were given is a different species, perhaps you could send us a picture for better identification. See the lower right hand corner of the Mr. Smarty Plants opening website page for instructions on e-mailing picture to us.

 

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