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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!

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

 
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Tuesday - July 01, 2008

From: Peoria, IL
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Orange and fuschia flowers on bushes in Maine
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I recently visited Portland,ME from end of May to the second week in June. many of the homes had these beautiful flowering bushes next to the houses. The flowers grew in clusters similar to hydrangeas, but the colors were a bright orange on one bush and more of a fushia color on the others. I'm wondering if you have any ideas.

ANSWER:

The only plants that are native to Maine that fit that description are laurels/azaleas/rhododendrons:

Kalmia angustifolia (sheep laurel)

Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)

Kalmia polifolia (bog laurel)

Rhododendron canadense (rhodora)

Rhododendron maximum (great laurel)

Rhododendron prinophyllum (early azalea)

Rhododendron viscosum (swamp azalea)

These range from whites, pinks to fuschias, but there aren't in orange ones native to Maine. However, there are orange rhodendrons that are native to the southeast—Rhododendron austrinum (orange azalea), for USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 9 and Rhododendron calendulaceum (flame azalea), hardy in USDA zones 5 to 7. They wouldn't survive Maine's winters since its Hardiness Zones are mainly 3 and 4.

There are some other native plants which are not naturally native to Maine, but are native to North America, that are sold in Maine as garden plants and would fit your description of orange hydrangea-like flowers. There are also some with pink flowers. These are some of the showier milkweeds:

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

From our National Suppliers Directory I found that both Fieldstone Gardens in Vassalboro, Maine and Pierson Nurseries in Biddeford, Maine offer these two plants for sale.

If none of these plants are what you saw, it is possible that these are non-native cultivated species and that would be out of our area of expertise. If you have pictures of the plants, however, you can send us photos and we will do our best to identify them. Visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page for instructions (under "Plant Identification") for submitting photos.


Kalmia angustifolia

Kalmia latifolia

Kalmia polifolia

Rhododendron canadense

Rhododendron maximum

Rhododendron prinophyllum

Rhododendron viscosum

Rhododendron austrinum

Rhododendron calendulaceum

Asclepias tuberosa

Asclepias tuberosa

Asclepias incarnata

Asclepias incarnata

 

 

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