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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

 
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Friday - March 05, 2010

From: Thicket, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Need to identify a strange plant in my flowerbed
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I have a strange plant that I've called a weed in my flowerbed. It doesn't have many leaves but it has round white almost bulbs at the surface of the dirt. The "bulbs" look almost like a small onion and have the texture of a mushroom. Several of the "bulbs" have bloomed into a large orange fruit or flower. The bulbs that have bloomed into fruits have rotted and stink just like a rotten fruit. What in the world do I have growing in my flowerbed? Thanks.

ANSWER:

Generally, it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify a plant from a written description, so we encourage people to send us images by following the instructions on the Plant Identification page. 

In the meantime you have given us some clues that will allow us to make a guess about the organism that is in your flower bed. Mr. Smarty Plants is thinking that the mystery plant might be a mushroom ("toadstool"). Since the focus of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is on native flowering plants, few of us are  well versed in fungi. The fungi at one time were considered to be part of the plant kingdom (Kingdom Plantae), but now they have a kingdom of their own (Kingdom Fungi), and the people who study them are called Mycologists.

I would guess that the orange structure you described is not a flower, but is called a fruiting body that produces spores. The orange color suggests that it could be in the genus Amanita which contains several species that are toxic, so be careful when you handle it.  Another possibility is that it's a member of the fungus family, Phallaceae, known as Stinkhorn fungi.  Many members of this family are also orange and have growth structures that could be the "bulbs" you described.

I'm including this site from the Missouri Department of of Conservation so that you can compare pictures of Amanita with your specimen and learn more about the toxic properties of the genus. Take a look at this site at  MykoWeb for many more pictures.

For help closer to home, contact the folks at the office of the Gulf States Mycological Society  in nearby Newton, TX.

If it doesn't turn out to be a mushroom, we'll be awaiting your photos for another try.

 

 

 

 

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