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
2 ratings

Monday - June 29, 2009

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

Natural location of Ceanothus impressus in California
May 21, 2006 - Where is Ceanothus impressus 'victoria' native? I need as specific as you can. Thanks much.
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

Plant Identification from Round Rock TX
October 26, 2010 - I am looking for the name of a ground cover I saw that looked like large bur oak leaf in a silvery green color. It was in the shade. I tried a search with no luck. Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Identification of mystery tree in Huntington Beach, CA
March 25, 2015 - Have a "tree" that has grown from about 18" tall to about 10' tall in a little over a years time. It has a central trunk that is about 3/4" in diameter at it's largest. It has short thin branch...
view the full question and answer

Dodder, rootless, leafless, parisitic twining plants
May 29, 2006 - Hello, I have been studying wildflowers in California for many years. Yesterday I came across a surprise and I am thus far unable to identify it. As it is raining today, I cannot get a photo, but I...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center