En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
27 ratings

Friday - January 09, 2009

From: Toronto, ON
Region: Canada
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant with no leaves, flexible and stores water
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Do you now a plant that has no leaves but stores a lot of water and is very flexible? Maybe a type of vine? Thank you!

ANSWER:

You don't say whether you have, or saw, such a plant and are trying to identify it; or, perhaps you want to grow such a plant; or, you are just curious if such a plant exists.  Whatever the reason for your question, here is what I can tell you about plants, both native and non-native to North America, that fit at least part of your description:

The first plants that come to mind that store a lot of water and have no leaves are the cacti (for example., Carnegiea gigantea (saguaro) or Opuntia sp.), but I certainly wouldn't call them particularly flexible.  There are a couple of Opuntias that grow in Ontario, Opuntia humifusa (devil's-tongue) and Opuntia fragilis (brittle pricklypear). Some other cacti that store water are species in the genera Selenicereus and Hylocereus from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and tropical South America.  Some of these are vine-like (for example, S. urbanianus and H. undatus) and somewhat more flexible than the cacti named above.

The Cuscuta (Dodder) are parasitic vines that have very reduced leaves that certainly store some water in their stems, but the stems are relatively thin so there won't be much water stored there.  There are several species of Cuscuta that occur in Ontario, some native and some not.

Succulents store water in their stems and leaves and there are succulent vines that lack leaves in the Ceropegias, a genus in the Family Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family) that are found mainly in tropical Africa, India, the Middle East and Asia.  Many of the species of the genus are vines and several lack leaves (for example, C. devecchii from Somalia, C. arabica from Saudi Arabia and  C. ampliata from South Africa).

If you have such a plant or a photo of it, you can submit your photo to us and we will do our best to identify it.  Please visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page to read instructions on submitted photos for identification.


Carnegiea gigantea

Opuntia humifusa

Cuscuta polygonorum

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

What is sage-like plant in New River AZ?
July 17, 2009 - I have a sage like looking plant growing wild in my yard. I live in the Sonora Desert. Its leaves are purple and once a year in spring it will bloom small blooms that are lavender. It grows 2 to 3 an...
view the full question and answer

Identification of tree with red feathery leaves
March 08, 2012 - What is the name of a tree with dark red leaves, feathery, slim trunk; maybe in the pepper family? Jedi?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification for shrub in Florida
September 03, 2011 - On our street we have ornamental shrub planted in the median that has small waxy green leaves, produces small fragrant white flowers, and red berries with white pulp and small seeds on the inside. Th...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 29, 2014 - I have a plant in my yard about 3' high, narrow pointy smooth leaves covered with small berries that are turning purple. What is this? a weed? should I eliminate it from my xeriscape garden or wel...
view the full question and answer

State flower of Hawaii
January 04, 2006 - What color is the state flower of Hawaii?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center