En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Fog fruit?

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

May I send a blueberry picture for ID?
May 28, 2010 - May I send a digital photo of plant for confirmation that it is a wild blueberry?
view the full question and answer

Dodder
April 06, 2012 - I have seen patches of Bluebonnets that are covered with a stringy,rubbery,orange substance that seems to be choking out the particular patch. It wraps itself around the flowers,completely covering th...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 01, 2010 - I have a grandchild that said the seed pod on a plant that looks like a clover is edible. It has clover like leaves and a little yellow flower. I did taste it and it kind of taste like a pickle. Th...
view the full question and answer

Help with plant identification.
September 01, 2008 - We need help identifying a perennial in our backyard, which we assume is a native/wildflower, but might not be. It has yellow flowers with 5/6 petals (delicatea, starlike/about 1-1.5 inches across) a...
view the full question and answer

Why is Mentzelia oligosperma called
July 15, 2014 - Could you tell me why Mentzelia oligosperma is sometimes called chickenthief?
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