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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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Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Tuesday - September 15, 2009

From: Hutto, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification of Texas bullnettle (Cnidoscolus texanus)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'm trying to identify a small thorny plant that I found growing on our (previously undeveloped) dry lot in Hutto, Central Texas. It has small white flowers and green thorny bulbs. The leaves and stems are also thorny. It gave my foot an allergic reaction and I'd like to know the best way to keep it from coming back into my yard. The soil was previously very dry (throughout the worst drought in Central Texas history) and these plants popped up. Then after the rain in the past week, they grew very quickly. Hutto soil is generally black clay but our lot has very shallow soil on top of a rock shelf. Thank you.

ANSWER:

The plant you describe (and thank you for the photos you sent) is Cnidoscolus texanus (Texas bullnettle).  The spines on them can provide quite a sting. 

If you were extremely careful, wearing protective clothing and heavy gloves, you could probably dig the plants up.  The Bandera County Courier also has some information on controlling it.  There are likely to be more, though, growing from seeds deposited there by wildlife.  The seeds, once you get to them, are quite tasty for wildlife and humans as well.  Delena Tull (page 76) of Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest explains how to get into the delicious fruit.  


Cnidoscolus texanus

Cnidoscolus texanus

Cnidoscolus texanus

Cnidoscolus texanus

 

 

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