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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!

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Wednesday - August 06, 2008

From: Carnation, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification, possibly Actaea rubra, red baneberry
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I came across a plant that has leaves similar to the astillbe shrub, stands about 3 feet high, and instead of a flower spire, has a chunk of bright red berries the size of medium-sized pearls atop its "pole". The stem is hollow,green, and it was last week of July that I spotted it, standing out in the brush like a red flag - a big pompom solid-packed with berries all by its lonesome under the tall firs. We are in Washington State and I've been researching for two days now on native plants with red berries and can't raise it. I've found two of these plants growing singly straight up with that pompom of bright red berries. Each berry contains about 10 large, wedge-shaped seeds. I don't know the color the flower may have been or what month it bloomed. I did a leaf rubbing of the leaves, which look very similar to astillbe. What could it be?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants thinks you saw Actaea rubra (red baneberry). Here are photos from Colorado, Connecticut, Wisconsin, California and Central Washington. Sometimes they have white berries instead of red ones. If this isn't it, please let us know and we will try again.

 


Actaea rubra

Actaea rubra

Actaea rubra

Actaea rubra

 

 

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