En Español

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

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.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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


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.


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.





More Plant Identification Questions

Identification of wild plum found in Conroe, TX
March 23, 2007 - I have found a wild plum that has dirty pink flowers and reddish smooth bark in a field in the town of Conroe, Tx. Identification thru the Ag Man here was sketchy and inaccurate. Short stubby limbs w...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
April 06, 2011 - I'm trying to figure out the name of a plant/shrub purchased a couple years ago. It was a shrub (about medium sized) with yellow blooms that smelled like lemon. I don't think it was lemon balm or le...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 29, 2008 - My parents have a plant growing that we can not identify. Fast growing to 6 ft in 6 weeks. theleaves look like a fern with little sweet pea looking yellow blooms. The plants leaves fold up at dusk tig...
view the full question and answer

Mystery small tree with many large thorns
May 09, 2011 - In a small spot on over 2 acres, we have this strange tree/shrub. It is a single, straight stem with no branches, and has profuse, large thorns from top to bottom. At the top of the stem, the leaves...
view the full question and answer

Identification of vine with hair-like prickles
January 04, 2013 - Trying to find out what kind of vine I ran into yesterday while climbing a deer stand. While pushing limbs and vines down from around me, I noticed hair-like thorns stuck in my sleeves and hands. This...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center