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

Distinguish between Huisache and Goldenball Leadtree
March 23, 2008 - How do you distinguish between Huisache (Acacia farnesiana) and Goldenball Leadtree (Leucaena retusa)? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Plant identification in Georgia
September 14, 2011 - I saw the same question that I was going to ask about the plant that folds its leaves at dusk, with sparse branches, rapid growth, small yellow flowers and long (whisker-like, but do not appear to be ...
view the full question and answer

Mystery plant in Vicksburg, MS
May 20, 2008 - I have a strange plant that has come up by a ditch next to my house. I've lived here 23 years and have never seen anything like it. I can only guess that it came up from a packet of wildflower seed...
view the full question and answer

Idendification of plants with white cotton ball flowers
July 03, 2012 - A few months ago I found a small plant with a white cotton ball type flower on it. It had red spots. It was on the bank of the Nashua river. I had never seen this before, and I am having a hard time ...
view the full question and answer

Identity of milkweed vine with smooth seedpod
November 23, 2012 - I believe the vine I am curious about may be Matelea reticulata. However, most of the pictures I have seen of that vine show bumps on the exterior of the seed pod, and the pod I have is green and smo...
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