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

Plant ID of succulent from Flagler Beach FL
July 08, 2012 - file:///C:/Users/CircuitCity/Downloads/All%20sizes%20%20%20baby%20plants%20growing%20on%20succulent%20leaves%20%20%20Flickr%20-%20Photo%20Sharing!_files/3901143728_dcf227ea85.jpg I have a succulent t...
view the full question and answer

Tree with orange flower blooming in August in West Virginia
August 28, 2008 - There is a tree with an orange flower in West Virginia. The orange is at the top of the tree and it blooms in August. I've searched your sight but cannot find it. Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Identity of very tall plants in Austin, TX
August 13, 2012 - I have these huge tall plants. They don't seem to want to bloom and they are shading out my other natives. They get very tall. 10 feet or so. What is it?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 23, 2008 - Hi, I live in southeastern PA, and want to identify a wildflower . It about 36" tall, with a showy red spiked flower at the top, appox. 2" in diameter. Thanks, Robin
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 01, 2013 - I picked a beautiful large red wildflower, & by the time I got home, the stem had turned "spikey" and dark black! Very ugly & a little scary as I had never heard of such a flower! Can you identify??
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center