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

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Monday - May 17, 2010

From: El Monte, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification site
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Is there a site I can use to identify plants by photos of leaves, flowers, berries etc? I found a plant in my yard I cannot identify. The nursery near us could not identify it. It has some groups/clusters of 3 - 5 "berries" that are about 1/4 inch and some have turned purpley black. It also has small white flowers with a yellow center.


If your plant is native to North America, you might be able to find it on our website.  Go to our Native Plant Database and do a COMBINATION SEARCH, entering 'California' in the Select State or Province slot and then try 'Shrub' in the Habit (general appearance) slot.  You can change that entry to search other plant types.  You could also enter 'White' under Bloom Color.  When I read your description of the plant again, one plant popped into my mind that sort of matches your description—Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed).  Birds could have brought the seeds into your garden.

If this doesn't happen to be the plant and you couldn't find it by searching our database, please send us photos and we will do our best to identify it.  Visit Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page to read the instructions for submitting photos.

Here are photos of American pokeweed from our Image Gallery:

Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana



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