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
1 rating

Thursday - October 06, 2005

From: Indianapolis, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany, Cacti and Succulents, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Monocarpic plants for Indiana
Answered by: Nan Hampton


We were in Hawaii this summer and became acquainted with the Silversword. This plant (according to what we were told) blooms only once in it's lifetime (of 50-70 years). Are you aware of any other plants that might be able to grow in Indiana that bloom infrequently (less than once a year)?


Haleakala Silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense) does flower only once in its lifetime but that lifetime is only 15-50 years according to the National Biological Service. After it blooms the plant dies. Plants with this reproductive strategy are known as monocarpic, i.e., they flower and produce fruit only once in their lifetime and then die. All annuals and biennials are monocarpic, but there are also many perennial plants that are monocarpic. Some of these may live for 90 years before flowering and dying. Some of the more notable examples, besides the Silversword, are the Century Plants, members of the Genus Agave, of the desert Southwest. Another spectacular example from the Southwest U. S. is the Monument Plant (Frasera speciosa). Still another beautiful plant in the western U.S. Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) is monocarpic. Many bamboo species are also monocarpic and, additionally, all members of a particular bamboo species bloom simultaneously.

The monocarpic perennial plants that I found for Indiana aren't quite as spectacular, but are quite interesting, nonetheless. They are Sand Dune Thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), and Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata) that may function as an annual, a biennial or sometimes a monocarpic perennial. There are doubtless more Indiana native plants that are also monocarpic perennials.


More General Botany Questions

Is it safe to eat vegetables grown in the same bed as foxgloves?
August 12, 2012 - I have foxglove in my flower beds and have planted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and cantaloupe in the flower bed and now I am concerned about the shared root system. Also, my tomatoes are touching the...
view the full question and answer

Endemic plants for the Edwards Plateau
March 23, 2008 - Thanks so much for the info. it will be very helpful with the boys and we really stress "Leave No Trace Behind". The pictures will be enough. Thanks again!!
view the full question and answer

Albinism in plants.
May 16, 2010 - Greetings, I was wondering what you know of albinism in plants? I know I've found a few articles about it online. I discovered my only albino plant last summer. It was an albino dogbane plant grow...
view the full question and answer

Simple flowers vs. compound flowers
August 23, 2008 - Please, give the characteristics of a "simple flower" as distinct from a compound flower which has rays and "disk flowers". What type of flower is the flower of a chive,which seems to be composed...
view the full question and answer

Plants adding calcium to soil
June 08, 2006 - Hi, I am looking for a resource to help determine the functions of native plants. For instance, nitrogen fixing can be found in Indigo, Lead plant, lupines. Are there other plants that add back cal...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center