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?


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
2 ratings

Monday - June 29, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Fog fruit?
Answered by: Joe Marcus


In your native plant database listing for Phyla nodiflora one of the common names seems to be misspelled (fog instead of frog). FYI, if wrong, please let me know.


Thank you for your comment regarding the common name of Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit).  
Common names are curious things.  While no one would bat an eye about a paper dissecting some arcane point of minutiae regarding Polygonum orientale, it’s difficult to imagine a crotchety old botanist standing before his peers at a professional conference and delivering a serious exposition on “Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate.” Where botanical names are all about science and rules, common names are about art and whimsy.  Botanical names are about the sharing of information; common names are about conversation and pleasant communication.  Botanical names are neat and orderly, law-abiding citizens; common names are messy, free-wheeling, teenaged scofflaws.
All of that is a way of saying that “frogfruit” and “fogfruit” are like the old chewing gum ads – they’re “two… two… two mints in one!”  OK, Phyla nodiflora is not a mint, it’s in the Verbena family, but both common names are commonly applied to that species and several others related to it.  In fact, fogfruit probably even predates frogfruit as a common name by about 100 years (early 1800’s for fogfruit vs. early 1900’s for frogfruit).  Most likely, frogfruit arose as a common name from a mispronunciation or misspelling of fogfruit. I have in my mind the scene of a copy editor looking at “fogfruit” and saying, “That can’t be right!  What the heck is a fogfruit?  It must be, oh, I don’t know, maybe frogfruit!  Yep, that must be it.  Frogfruit makes a lot more sense!  Set the type, boys!”  Even today, if you do a Google search for each common name, you’ll get more “hits” for fogfruit than you will for frogfruit.  Neither common name makes much sense to me and I’m still looking for a good (non-fanciful) explanation for the origin of either one.  My personal preference is for the common name, Turkey-tangle, but that’s another issue altogether.


Phyla nodiflora



More Plant Identification Questions

Identifying a plant similar to sarsaparilla
September 04, 2011 - I am trying to identify a plant that looks very similar to sasparilla, but has a ring of blue berries at the end of a long stalk, and the plant itself is spreading, not an isolated herb like sasparill...
view the full question and answer

What is the correct genus name for Fringe flower in North Myrtle Beach, SC?
September 14, 2010 - Is it Laura Pedlum or lorapetalum? I saw this shrub last week, and finally found a picture of it. The search engine listed about three different names for it! So what is the correct name, and does i...
view the full question and answer

Tentative identification of Ibervillea lindheimeri
June 22, 2007 - I live close to the Center and found a plant in the park near my house I'd like identified. It was a vine with bright red fruit on it. The fruit was about the size of a cherry tomato but was oblong...
view the full question and answer

Identity of tree with pumpkin-like fruit in Florida
October 02, 2012 - Hello. I live in a small town called Molino FL. I was walking on the side of our road and found a tree with pumpkin type fruit on the limbs. I have been trying to figure this tree out for about 3 mont...
view the full question and answer

Identity of ball-shaped purple flower in Connecticut
July 13, 2015 - I am trying to identify a ball shaped purple/light purple flower with opposite leaves that look fern like. It has been in bloom since late May or early June. I have found it growing with what appear...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center