En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Plant identification

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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - May 24, 2009

From: Plainsboro, NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

It is a small, thin vine growing in the grass in the shadier parts of the lawn. Every 3-4 inches it has two thin stems about three inches long sprouting from almost exactly the same place on the vine. One stem has three leaves with "serrated" edges (two opposite leaves and the one in the middle is slightly longer) The leaves themselves are green and about half an inch to an inch long. The other stems ends in what at first I thought was a berry, but now I think is a cone-shaped red flower with very short (but not sharp) spikes. The flower (and bud before blooming) is surrounded by five tiny green tulip-shaped leaves (three points). From a distance it looks like a very small strawberry. It is not elongated, like alpine strawberries, but fatter. The flower itself is about as tall as a fingernail. I started to notice these plants about 10 days ago (early/mid May) Since I've noticed them in various places in the yard, I'm concerned that my littlest child might come across one that I haven't pulled out and eat it. Should I be worried? Thank you for your help.

ANSWER:

Here are two possibilities for native plants that sound somewhat similar to your description:

1.  Chenopodium capitatum (blite goosefoot) and here are more photos and information

2.  Another possibility is Chenopodium rubrum (Coast blite).

Neither of these appears in any of the toxic plant databases I accessed, but I did find two members of the genus Chenopodium listed in poisonous plants databases.  Neither of these, however, looks like the plant you describe.  They are:

a.   Chenopodium album (lamb's quarters) listed by Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System, Poisonous Plants of Pennsylvania and by Cornell University's Plants Poisonous to Livestock.

b.  Chenopodium ambrosioides (Mexican tea) listed by the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina database.  This species is a non-native.

This doesn't mean that the two first species listed above (C. capitatum and C. rubrum) are toxic, but it does suggest being cautious about them.

Mr. Smarty Plants is rather skeptical that either of the two native species above is the plant you have in your yard.  Given the fact that your small child might find it attractive to taste and we aren't sure of its identity and toxic possibilities, why don't you take photos and send them to us so that we can identify it.  Please visit Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page for instructions for submitting photos.


Chenopodium capitatum

Chenopodium capitatum

 

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
November 18, 2007 - We were at some friends' ranch in Bandera Co. last week and found a plant with 1 inch pea-like pods of a matchstick girth with square black seeds. There were no leaves left only smooth green stems w...
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant along Austin's Hike 'n' Bike Trail
March 28, 2011 - Can you identify the tall (5-6 feet) lanky woody shrub which is growing on the south side of the Hike'n'Bike Trail in Austin? It is in a small garden, adopted by Maggie and Karl Key, near the new p...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 27, 2008 - A friend brought back pictures of plants from a recent trip which included the center. It didn't have an identification sign on it and no one was around at that moment for him to ask. I can send th...
view the full question and answer

Need identification of a bush with red bumpy berries in PA.
October 02, 2009 - Pennsylvania - We are trying to identify a bush that has small red bumpy berries. The berries are the size of a crab apple or a cherry. Can you tell us what it is?
view the full question and answer

Identification of yellow blooming plants near Temple, Texas
November 07, 2011 - This question may be a challenge. We noticed fields of yellow blooming plants in the fields east of Temple. They appear to be about 4 inches tall. (we were on a bus and could not stop to look cl...
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