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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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Wednesday - January 30, 2008

From: Carrollton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of plant, possibly giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida)
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I am trying to identify a weed that was prevalant where I grew up in North Central Texas. It grows in low spots and along creeks. It has woody stalks with short spines, grows 3'- 6' tall, the leaves are braod and spiny also, and when you break the stalk, it bleeds red sap. It grows in huge clumps and will take over a creek bank.

ANSWER:

The plant that best fits your description is Ambrosia trifida (great ragweed) or, more precisely, Ambrosia trifida var. texana (Texan great ragweed). It grows in waste places and, although native, it is considered invasive in some areas. One of its common names is blood ragweed and the description in Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas, p. 310, for Ambrosia trifida L. var. texana reads:

"...sap blood red.. . The sap stains the hands red if the tissues are damaged."

Here are additional photos of Ambrosia trifida (giant ragweed) from the University of Texas "Image Archive of Central Texas Plants" and still more photos from the Freckmann Herbarium, Universtiy of Wisconsin.


Ambrosia trifida var. texana

Ambrosia trifida var. texana

Ambrosia trifida var. texana

 

 

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