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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

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Saturday - April 19, 2008

From: Meridian, ID
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Tentative identification of non-native Senecio rowleyanus
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am trying to track down a plant that I used to have but do not know what it is called. It grew in long strings of "pea like" balls. When planted in a hanging pot, the stringy "pea" like vines looked really cool and I would like to have one again. The one I used to have was picked clean by my then 1 year old child.

ANSWER:

This sounds very like a succulent that we have seen from time to time without knowing what it was. So, we went looking at succulents, and have found one that appears to match your description. Here is a page of images of Senecio rowleyanus; see if it matches your memory of the plant. Somewhat to our surprise, it is a member of the family Asteraceae, but when you see pictures of the flowers, you will see that they lack the ray-like florets that ordinarily appear in that family. It is sometimes called "string of beads" or "string of peas", and the round "beads" are actually leaves, adapted to conserve moisture during extreme periods of drouth. It is native to southwest Africa, and therefore a little out of the area of expertise of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which is dedicated to the care and propagation of plants native to North America. However, many indoor container plants are non-native subtropicals, which can adapt to the conditions of indoor living. Go to this website Plants to Grow to learn about its care and culture. Many nurseries carry a selection of succulents, or possibly you could order it by mail. Hope we found the right plant!

 

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