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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 27, 2008

From: Blaine, MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Plant Identification, Seeds and Seeding, Herbs/Forbs
Title: How to get rid of plants spreading fluffy seeds
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I live in Blaine, MN next to a Lake. The "buffer zones" next to the lake are filled with native grasses, weeds & wildflowers. We are trying to identify a plant that blooms July with lavender flowers, approx 3-4 ft tall. The flowers go to seed in August & all kinds of Cottony fluffs, like dandelions fill the air & cover the lawn & lake looking almost like it's snowing. Can you PLEASE tell us what it is? It's not bad until the flowers turn to seed. We'd like to know the best way to get rid of it & plant something else there. Please advise. Thank you.


From your description I can't tell exactly what you have. It sounds, however, like a member of the Family Asteraceae (Daisy Family). Here are some possibilities that somewhat fit your description:

Lactuca pulchella (showy blue lettuce)

Lactuca biennis (tall blue lettuce)

Symphyotrichum cordifolium (common blue wood aster)

Vernonia baldwinii (Baldwin's ironweed)

Vernonia fasciculata (prairie ironweed)

Cirsium discolor (field thistle)

Cirsium flodmanii (Flodman's thistle)

Cirsium muticum (swamp thistle)

Eupatoriadelphus maculatus var. maculatus (spotted trumpetweed)

Eupatorium purpureum (sweetscented joepyeweed)

Another couple of possibilities from a different family, Family Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family) are Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed) and Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed).

If one of these isn't your plant, we will do our best to identify it if you will send us photos. Visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page to read the instructions (under "Plant Identification") for submitting photos.

Whatever it is, however, in order to get rid of the plants, you need to pull them (or dig them) up or cut them down—preferably before they go to seed. Since the seeds are airborne and are likely to persist for more than one year you will have to be persistent about removing new plants because they are likely to come up again for several years.

You can visit our Recommended Species page and click on Minnesota on the map to get a list of commercially available plants native to Minnesota that are recommended for landscaping for possibilites to replace the plants you are removing.

Lactuca tatarica var. pulchella

Symphyotrichum cordifolium

Vernonia baldwinii

Vernonia fasciculata

Cirsium discolor

Cirsium flodmanii

Cirsium muticum

Eupatoriadelphus maculatus var. maculatus

Eupatorium purpureum

Asclepias speciosa

Asclepias syriaca



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