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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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Thursday - September 03, 2009

From: St Petersburg, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Does NPIN include non-native plant species?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I'm writing a book on the plants eaten by 12th century Indians of Florida. I'd like to use your site for some of my research. You say all of your plants are native, but then under some listings (wild garlic) you say the plant is native to Europe. Which is it? Were all of your listings growing here in the 12th century?

ANSWER:

Thank you for alerting us to the misleading wording of our NPIN entry for Allium canadense (meadow garlic).  The sentence you referenced was discussing the closely related European species, Allium vineale.  The entry also discussed another non-native species, Allium ampeloprasum.  To avoid further confusion, we have stricken our discussion of the non-natives from the web page for Allium canadense.

There should be no non-native (outside North America) plant species included in the NPIN database.  Some entries, like the one you read, may include some discussion of non-naitve species, but that would be very unusual.  The native origins of a few species are in dispute among botanists.  We make decisions on a case by case basis for those exceptions based on the best evidence available.

We do not have a definitive answer for your final question.  Most questions of nativity date to the time of arrival of Europeans to North America some 300 to 400 years after the period of time you're researching.  We know that Native Americans traded and spread edible plants among tribes and over large areas, but our information is not nearly so exact to say whether or not certain species occurred in Florida in the 12th century.  Unfortunately, none of the North American indiginous peoples kept written records.

 

 

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