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?


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
2 ratings

Monday - April 24, 2006

From: Cary, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Determination of native plants of North Carolina
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Nan Hampton


I am compiling lists of native plants to use in NC, and found that Dirr (Manual of Woody Landscape Plants) lists introduction dates (xxxx) for MANY of the trees you list as natives, e.g., Acer rubrum (1860), Fraxinus americana (1724), Quercus falcata (1904), Q. shumardii (1907), Q. stellata (1819), . . . Where can I find a database with truly native plants? Thanks for your help.


All of the trees you list are North Carolina natives. The confusion comes from the terminology Dr. Dirr uses in his book. On page 5 of his "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" (3rd edition) he states, "The introduction or cultivation date is the earliest record of the plants." You would think that he would use the term "cultivated" in the text for species that are native to North America. Instead, he pretty consistently uses the term "introduction," as in "introduced to cultivation"; sort of like "introduced to polite society," as in a debutante coming out. He does, however, typically give the region of origin for non-natives somewhere in the text of a species' treatment. Also, he gives treatments for many hybrids and cultivars which greatly complicate matters.

The best resources that I know of for information about North Carolina species are Radford, et al's "Manual or the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas" and the new, yet-to-be-published Weakley's "Flora of the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and surrounding areas." You can visit the University of North Carolina Herbarium web page where you can download a very large PDF file of the entire version of this publication or you can download it in several smaller PDF files. I don't know of an exhaustive database of North Carolina native plant species.

More Trees Questions

When is the appropriate time to prune pecan trees in Hewitt?
September 07, 2008 - Labor Day Weekend my husband decided to trim all the low branches on a big pecan tree in our back yard which I thought should had been done at the first of the year, our temprature is in the mid 90's...
view the full question and answer

Different kinds of plants living in subarctic areas
March 10, 2008 - What are the different kinds of plants live in the subarctic areas?
view the full question and answer

Differences between smooth bark and rough bark Arizona cypress
March 12, 2008 - What is the difference between smooth bark Arizona Cypress and rough bark Arizona Cypress in terms of tree growth, form, foliage, etc.? Will one grow better than the other in the Waco area?
view the full question and answer

Life expectancy for Ulmus crassifolia
June 21, 2007 - What is the life expectancy for a cedar elm? We live in Austin, and the tree was likely here before the house, which was built in 1939.
view the full question and answer

Life expectancy of Desert Willow in Tucson, AZ
April 06, 2013 - What is the life expectancy of a Chilopsis linearis under ideal circumstances.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center