Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Thursday - April 28, 2011

From: The Woodlands, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of volunteer tree
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a volunteer tree in my yard that has a mixture of serrated, non-serrated, and partially-serrated leaves on it. My tree identification guides all assume either serrated or non-serrated. How do I begin to identify it?

ANSWER:

Many trees have variable leaves —just in general, or dependent on the age of the leaf or its position on the tree.   Unfortunately, many tree identification books fail to mention that the leaves can be variable.  There are many features of trees that should be considered when you are faced with a difficult identification situation.   First, leaf shape and arrangement are very important.  The texture of the bark, the general shape of the tree, its flowers, and the fruits containing the seeds also need to be considered.  Of course, all of those features aren't always available to see.   You may have only the leaf shapes, their arrangement on the stems and the trunk.  To make things harder the texture of the trunk on young trees may look different from that of older trees.  A good field guide to trees in your area with some sort of key is your best resource for identification.  Here are a few:

Field Guide to Texas Trees by Benny J. Simpson (1999.  Houston:  Lone Star Books/Gulf Publishing Co.) has descriptive text, distribution maps and color photographs; but no identification key.

Lone Star Field Guide to Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of Texas by Delena Tull and George O. Miller (1999. Rev. ed. Houston:  Gulf Publishing Co.) has descriptive text, color photographs and a key to identification.

Trees of East Texas by Robert A. Vines (1977.  Austin: University of Texas Press) has detailed descriptions of trees with very good pen and ink drawings.  It has a dichotomous key only to the genus Crataegous (hawthorns).   It is out-of-print but there are affordable used copies available and perhaps it is available in your local library.

Trees of Texas: Field Guide by Stan Tekiela (2009.  Adventure Publications) with color photos and arranged by the type of leaf type its attachment to the tree.

Texas Trees: a Friendly Guide by Leslie W. Cox and Patty Leslie (1988 new ed.  San Antonio, TX: Corona Publishing Co.) grouped by leaf type and arrangement with drawings and stories about the trees and their relationships to humans.

Tree Finder: a Manual for the Identification of Trees by Their Leaves by May Theilgaard Watts (1998. Rev. ed. Rochester, NY:  Nature Study Guild Publishers) is small, affordable and has a dichotomous key for trees east of the Rocky Mountains.


 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Wild native trees with orange blooms
March 30, 2012 - What is the wild native tree that is blooming orange blooms - as you drive down the road thru Chappel Hill, and Brenham area. I've never seen these before when we went viewing bluebonnets - however,...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
August 16, 2008 - I walk in a wooded area. There is a plant with large spade like leaves.It grow to about 4 to 6 ft. In other areas it has grown almost tree-like with green sticky nuts or seeds. I believe it had purple...
view the full question and answer

Identification of tree bought from a magazine ad
August 11, 2013 - I recently submitted the following question to Ask An Expert. They were unable to identify the plant. I hope you will be able to. Can you help me by either identifying this plant or advising me a...
view the full question and answer

Identification of low plant with like waterlily pad
May 04, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a low growing plant with leaves the shape of a waterlily pad, approx.1" growing all over my yard. I actually like them but would like to know the name of the plant. Thank y...
view the full question and answer

What is it?
May 29, 2008 - We have two bushes about three ft. high that have narrow leaves that are about one to two inches long and glossy green on top side with soft green on back. They are fairly close together on stems with...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.