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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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Monday - June 08, 2009

From: Bordentown, NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification--Mock Orange
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I "grew up" with what I was told was a "Mockorange Bush." I've been looking around to be able to try to identify what variety it was. To be specific, the one that I am familiar with had little basket like-reddish brown "fruit"(?) hanging on it, probably about 3/4" diameter. I don't think they were completely round, but little semi-hard, kind of flexible, (Like a basket would feel)petal like protrusions, coming from the center of the stem, and curling downward, kind of like a basket. I don't necessarily remember the white flowers that most of the Mockoranges have, but maybe it wasn't a Mockorange, although those little "fruits," might be construed as tiny oranges. I've never seen them on any pictures of Mockoranges that I've viewed. I always thought that the reason mine was called a Mockorange was because of those little "oranges." Any clue? Thank you very much for taking time to read this. Hope you had a nice break a week ago! (Vacation?) Jim Kiiffner

ANSWER:

You can see a drawing of the fruit of Philadelphus coronarius (Sweet mock orange), a non-native mock orange and the fruit of P. lewisii (Lewis' mock orange) , a native mock orange, in the USDA Plant Database plus a photo of the developing fruit of P. lewisii from Oregon State University and a photo of mature fruit from Virginia Tech.  Here are drawings of the fruits of P. caudatus and  P. tetragonus, two Asian species from Flora of China.  Here are drawings of P. serpyllifolius (p.133) and P. hitchcockianus, P. argenteus and P. microphyllus (p.134), and P. palmeri (p.135) in Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas  by A. Michael Powell (University of Texas Press, 1998).  You can see a drawing of the fruit of P. grandiflorus on p.182 in  Minnesota Trees and Shrubs by Clements, Rosendahl and Butters (The University of Minnesota, 1912).  There is a drawing of the fruit (capsule) of P. ernestii (p. 371) in Rare Plants of Texas by Poole, Carr, Price, & Singhurst (Texas A&M University Press,2007).  I wasn't able to find drawings or photos of the other species of Philadelphus, but you can see that the various fruits in the pictures above resemble each other, but are also different from each other.  Perhaps one of the fruits in these pictures resembles the one your remember.  You can see photos (no fruits shown) of some of the native species of Philadelphus in our Native Plant Database and you can see more photos and distributions of native and introduced species of Philadelphus in the USDA Plants Database. By the way, most of the sources say that the fruits are inedible, but one source says that the fruit of P. microphyllus (Little-leaf mock orange) is edible and was formerly used as food.

There is a reference in NaturesPlants.com to two plants in other genera that have also been called by the common name of mock orange—Murraya paniculata (Mock orange) and Pittosporum tobira (Japanese mock orange or Japanese cheesewood)—but neither of these has fruit that sounds exactly like your description.  M. paniculata, however, certainly looks like a small elongate orange.

Thanks for asking about Mr. Smarty Plants' vacation.  Actually, it was a "working vacation" since Mr. Smarty Plants had to take a week off to try and catch up on answering all the questions 'he' receives.  'He's' still trying to catch up!


Philadelphus ernestii

Philadelphus hitchcockianus

Philadelphus inodorus

Philadelphus microphyllus

Philadelphus lewisii

 

 

 

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