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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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Sunday - July 06, 2008

From: LaPorte, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant Identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I am trying to identify a small tree or large plant here in Indiana. I have seen it from 6 ft to as tall as 15 to 20. It is a green leaf with pink cone shaped growth at the ends of a branch. The cone is upside down (wide part is base of branch) The pink is furry and is made up of very small balls that are greenish/whitish closer to the center of the cone. I first saw this when O was a girl scout in southern Michigan(same are just 10 Min North of here) I actually licked one on a dare back then and it was very sweet tasting. I have been told it is poisonious, but no one seems to know what it is. I did not get sick from it and my father can chew poison ivy and roll around in it (from his childhood stories also) and not get it, so it is possible I would not not have a reaction to poisonious plants either. I do have a picture, but cannot find anything like it on the internet. Please help.


Mr. Smarty Plants has looked for this, but either it's not a plant native to North America and thus is not in our Native Plant Database or I haven't understood your description well enough to recognize it. I am assuming that what you are describing is the fruit of the plant, am I right? If so, do you know what the flower looked like that produced the fruit? Can you describe the shape of the leaves? Does it grow in the woods or in or near someone's lawn or garden? If you can provide this information, Mr. SP might have a better chance of identifying it. Better yet, if you happen to have photos of it, please send them to us and we will have an even better chance of identifying it. Visit Ask Mr. Smarty Plants to find the instructions (under "Plant Identification") for submitting photos.

In case it is a native plant, here is a way you can search for it yourself in our Native Plant Database. Do a Combination Search, selecting 'Indiana' from the Select State or Province category and select 'Tree' from the Habit (general appearance) category. You will get a list of trees that are native and grow in Indiana with thumbnail photos next to most of the entries. You can scroll through them and see if you find one that looks like your plant. You can do the search again choosing 'Shrub' instead of 'Trees' and/or 'Michigan' instead of 'Indiana'.


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