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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - December 29, 2009

From: Cherry Hill , NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Mystery plant in New Jersey
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We are trying to find the name of a shrub, growing in Southern New Jersey. with red berries that grow in a group much like lilac or oak leaf hydrangea. It is "feathery", not dense. A neighbor dug up some (it seems to spread quickly) and gave it to me years ago. She called it Mahonia but I don't think that's right. Any ideas?

ANSWER:

In order to make a positive ID we would need a photo of the plant; if you could send one that would be ideal.  Otherwise, when faced with an id question like this one the description gives us enough clues that we can make some guesses and provide links to our Native Plant Information Network so that you can zero in on the plant yourself.

However, in this case, you haven't provided enough clues.  I think you are right that it is not Mahonia as that plant is quite coarse in texture with leathery, prickly holly-like leaves and the berries are definitely not in a cone-shaped cluster.  There is no Mahonia native to New Jersey but there are a couple that are available in the nursery trade in your area: Mahonia repens (creeping barberry)and Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry) Both of these are native to the west and have purple berries resembling grapes.

As I gloss through the database, searching for plants that are native to New Jersey, the only one I come across that has red berries borne in that manner is the Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa (red elderberry).  That guess is a real stab in the dark and I would be amazed if that is your mystery plant.

Have a look through the NJ plants and if you don't find it but can provide a photo and more information about the plant, we'd be happy to give it another try. Instructions for submitting photos are on the Mr. Smarty Plants plant identification page.


Mahonia repens

Mahonia aquifolium

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
September 06, 2009 - Could you please identify a plant with a scalloped elephant ear type leaf, wooden base with oval areas where old large wooden roots from above the ground have fallen off.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of shrub with thorns and purple flowers
July 05, 2011 - I have a small tree or shrub, it has very small or thin thorns on the branches. It blooms in April / May. The flowers are purple. My mother-in-law said that it has been around for over 100 years, b...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification.
May 23, 2009 - Looking for the name of a green, bamboo-like plant with narrow leaves. Have no pictures.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
November 02, 2010 - Near Abilene State Park, a plant's leaves turn purple and it seems to have a pineapple looking growth. We call it the purple pineapple?
view the full question and answer

Identification of a vine with 3 leaves and a red trunk
January 02, 2014 - What is a vine with 3 leaves that has a red trunk?
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