En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Thursday - February 28, 2008

From: pflugerville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of old plant called pinks
Answered by: Barbara Medford


For years my mother had a pretty pink flower in her yard. It was in a little cluster of green leaf like bush. She just called them pinks. They would close in the sun and open in the morning or afternoon. They weren't morning glories, they were little and pink. They were so pretty and my family was wondering if they had a real name. I asked a friend who remembers her mother having those also and this lady also called them pinks. My mother has been gone a few years and we seem to keep coming up with questions that we wish she could answer.


We also remember flowers in old gardens that were called pinks. They are still around and, in fact, available in the nursery trade. The genus, which includes carnations, is Dianthus, and it is usually under that name that you will find them being sold. They are not actually natives of North America, which is what the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center centers on, but originated in the Meditteranean area. We all know that early settlers from Europe brought starts of their favorite plants to North America, and some, like pinks, have been around so long they seem to be natives.

This Botany.com website has probably a whole lot more information on Dianthus than you really needed, but the one thing we couldn't find was an indication that they closed in the sun and opened in the morning or afternoon. One clue, however, is that in very hot climates (like Texas) they did better in a little shade. Possibly, if your mother was growing them in full sun, they closed up a little in the heat of the day to protect themselves, and cut down on loss of moisture.

Another interesting piece of trivia we found is that the color pink may be named after the flowers, instead of the other way around. The origin of the flower name 'pink' may come from the frilled edge of the flowers. The verb 'pink' dates from the 14th Century and means 'to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern', as in pinking shears, for example.

Here is a website with a lot of Dianthus pictures. Most of them probably don't look altogether like your mother's flowers, because, like most plants in the nursery trade, they have been so extensively hybridized as to be almost unrecognizable sometime. We hope we've managed to answer at least one of the questions you wish you could ask your mother.


More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identfication
October 21, 2009 - Hi...Can you please identfy the tall, evergreen shrub with purple plum-colored foliage that I have noticed in winter locally?...Hope so, need he color! THX
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of chenille-like plant in Florida
July 27, 2011 - I live in Central Florida. I have a small, 8-10 inch plant that grows wild in the yard and has a 1 to 1-1/2 inch, bright red, feathery flower on it. I can't seem to find it on the internet and I'm ...
view the full question and answer

Propagating a Magnolia tree from a twig cutting in New Hampshire.
November 02, 2011 - I have a twig cutting from a rare magnolia tree I found on a farm in central New Hampshire. The tree seems to be at least one hundred years old. It was in full bloom in late August and I was told by t...
view the full question and answer

Identification of thorny bush
February 26, 2015 - We found a small thorny like bush in our hay field near the fence line yesterday. It has thorns and each thorn has new nodes along the thorn. it is a frosted like white at this time. It is early febru...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Parkinsonia aculeata
June 11, 2005 - What is the name of the tall shrub I see growing wild around Austin that is delicate, with thin stems and branches, and lacy, with multiple leaves, and yellow flowers? It looks lovely growing in a ma...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center