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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 16, 2008

From: Hillsdale, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of thorny plant in Michigan
Answered by: Nan Hampton


i live in southern michigan and have a thorny plant with oval leaves growing in my flower beds. this used to be a grassy area how did it get there. i live on the edge of town. what plants in my area have thorns


Here are some possibilities for your plant:

Laportea canadensis (wood nettle or Canada nettle). Here is another photo of the plant.

Rubus flagellaris (northern dewberry) and Rubus pensilvanicus (Pennsylvania blackberry)

Rosa palustris (swamp rose)

Smilax tamnoides (bristly greenbriar)

Solanum carolinense (Carolina horsenettle)

Solanum rostratum (buffalobur nightshade)

Xanthium strumarium (rough cockleburr)

If none of these happens to be it, please send us a photo and we will do our very best to identify it. Visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page for instructions on how to submit photos under "Plant Identification".

How did this plant get there? The most likely way is that its seed was deposited there by a bird or mammal who consumed the fruit somewhere else.

Rubus flagellaris

Rosa palustris

Solanum carolinense

Solanum rostratum

Xanthium strumarium



More Plant Identification Questions

Observation of Kalmia angustifolia in George Washington National Forest in Virginia
March 19, 2015 - On Feb. 7th, 2015 I observed a variety Kalmia on the crest of a ridge, recently burned off, in the George Washington National Forest. I think it may be sheep laurel (Kalmia angustiflora), which coloni...
view the full question and answer

Taxonomic question about Viola missouriensis and Viola affinis.
March 28, 2011 - I have tentatively identified a violet as either Viola affinis or V. missouriensis. However, the pages for those species are dated 2007 and 2009, respectively, in the NPIN, while it read...
view the full question and answer

Fragrant night blooming plant
June 09, 2009 - My Grandmother use to have a night fragrant night blooming plant that she referred to as "baby Jesus being born" when it bloomed. Are you familiar with anything of this nature?
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
April 16, 2009 - I have a vine in my flowerbed that has three leaves and thorns and it looks like poison ivy. How can I tell if it is?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 18, 2011 - Hello- I would like to know what is this plant? It grows in part to full sun over a large area; gray fuzzy, quilted, pointed leaves. It is now about 6-10" tall plants but there are untrimmed 24-3...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center