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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

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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Thursday - July 22, 2010

From: Aurora, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, (love the name), I have found a plant in my yard. Underground it looks like a green onion, above ground it has a broad leaf, a thin 8-12 inch stalk and the top 2" of the stalk is covered with 1/8 inch shiny green balls. I popped one of the balls and there were a few tiny white balls. Weed or desired garden plant? They were growing under an over growth of black berries.

ANSWER:

It sounds like a species in the Family Liliaceae (Lily Family).  There are many native species of Allium (onion).  You can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to limit the species to those occurring in Oregon.  However, in general, the onion species have rather narrow leaves. 

Here are a few other lily possibilities:

Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum (bluedicks)

Triantha glutinosa (sticky tofieldia)

Or, it might be on of the species of Zigadenus.  Use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to select for those that occur in Oregon.

Of course, it may be a cultivated plant and not a native plant at all. You might try searching in Mark Turner's Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest and entering 'Liliaceae' as a search term under Quick Search. His database contains both native and introduced plants.  Our Native Plant Database contains only North American natives.

Very few of the photographs you find will show the fruits—most show the flowers and some foliage.  You will have to use the arrangement of the flowers and the leaves to get an idea of whether the plant looks like your plant.

If none of this helps you identify what it might be, please send us photos and we will give it a try.  Visit Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page for instructions for submitting photos.

 

 

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