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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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Tuesday - July 29, 2008

From: Murchison, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have found what resembles a gooseberry growing from what appears to be a grapevine trellising on a fence beside a lake in East Texas. The stems are smooth and slender, nad as I stated before vine up a fence next to a small lake. The leaves are shaped like grape leaves. The plant's fruit grows on a single stem, and the fruit starts out pale green, and darkens as the fruit ripens to nearly black, although you can still see green in sunlight. What is this, and is it edible?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants assumes you mean the European gooseberry, Ribes uva-crispa. The vine that grows in Henderson County that most closely fits your description is Melothria pendula (Guadeloupe cucumber). The fruit is much the same size and shape and its leaves do look like grape leaves. Here are more photos. According to the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina database, it's probably not a good idea to eat the berry. It isn't highly toxic but it acts as a strong laxative and could have unpleasant consequences if eaten!

If this isn't your mystery plant, please send us photos and we will do our best to identify what it is. Please visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page to read the instructions (under "Plant Identification") for submitting photos.


Melothria pendula

Melothria pendula

 

 

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