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?

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
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

Saturday - May 14, 2011

From: Beeville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification for Beeville, TX
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Today in Beeville, TX I came across a plant that looks like a grass, but has a small black and white dotted flower. The flower looks like an orchid. Could you identify this or give me direction as to where I might find the answer?

ANSWER:

LATE BREAKING NEWS!  Someone saw this question and answer and suggested another possibility for a "plant that looks like a grass, but has a small black and white dotted flower".  You can read the question  from the person who made the suggestion.  The suggested plant is Aristolochia erecta (Swanflower) and it sounds as if could be your plant. It does have a black flower with white dots and it is described on the species page as being grass-like.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Aristolochia erecta

 


Aristolochia erecta


Aristolochia erecta


Aristolochia erecta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this doesn't happen to be the right plant, then consider the suggestions in the answer below:

Well, Mr. Smarty Plants is embarrassed to admit it, but I don't know of a native plant that matches your description exactly. However, here is my best guess:  Delphinium carolinianum (Carolina larkspur).  It has orchid-like flowers that range from white to blue and have dark spots near the end their petals.  They are tall like a grass although their foliage isn't really grass-like.  Here are some more photos from the School of Biological Sciences The University of Texas, from the University of Wisconsin Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium and from Kansas Wildflowers & Grasses.

If that's not it, then here are some other more remote possibilities:

There is one orchid in or near Bee County, Corallorhiza wisteriana (Spring coralroot), that has a spotted flower.  The spots, however, are described as purple or brown.   Here is another photo from the North Carolina Native Plant Society.

I did find one North American native white flower with black dots, Nemophila menziesii var. atomaria (Ninespot or Salt and Pepper), but it occurs in the redwood forests of Northern California and Oregon.  I doubt that it would have found its way to South Texas.  Additionally, it doesn't look like a grass or have a flower that looks to me like orchid. Here is another photo.

Two other remote possibilities are both members of the Family Iridaceae (Iris Family): Herbertia lahue (Prairie nymph) and Alophia drummondii (Propeller flower).  Both are normally bluish or purple, but they do have grass like foliage, do look like orchids and have spotted centers.  Although, I've never seen one, it is possible that there are flowers with pigment mutations that dim the blue/purple color to make them appear almost white with dark spots.

If we had a description of where (what kind of habitat) you found it and a more thorough description of its foliage and size, we might be able to come up with its identification.  If you visit our Plant Identification page, you will find several forums listed that specialize in identifying plants and are happy to accept photos for identification.  The South Texas Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas in Corpus Christi is the chapter nearest you.  Perhaps, if you contact them, someone will recognize the plant you describe. 

There is also the possibility that it is an exotic introduced species.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Delphinium carolinianum


Corallorhiza wisteriana


Herbertia lahue


Alophia drummondii

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Learning to identify native plants in backyard
June 28, 2011 - Please let me know how a layman like myself can identify native plants in my backyard. I don't know the plant names and don't know if they are dicots or any other technical terms (that some websites...
view the full question and answer

Desert or littleleaf sumac (Rhus microphylla) on Texas State Capitol grounds
May 07, 2007 - I am trying to find out what kinds of plants are planted on the Texas State Capitol Grounds. There is a bush that grows around the Capitol Extension windows area and I don't know what they are. The...
view the full question and answer

More information about Trillium in New Jersey
June 23, 2011 - Hi, Nan. FYI. The Trillium seeds in question came from the State of Alabama. If you have an interest in seeing photos of this Trillium and two others in my garden, which are different and which I be...
view the full question and answer

Smoketree not flowering in Beverly Hills CA
June 29, 2011 - Why is my Smoke tree not flowering? It is big and the leaves are beautiful but no blooms.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 14, 2008 - I have a plant or weed that is a five leaf leave and it is greenish-red and shinny. I have been searching the internet and can't seem to find what it is. It is spread throughout my back yard an...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center