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
1 rating

Sunday - May 29, 2011

From: Alpine, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of plant in wildflower show
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Was in Julian California yesterday for a wild flower display. Had a bad stomach ache as I was walking around looking at the flowers. Saw this one. About 6 inches tall. Instead of leaves, it had what looked like small rolled oats on either side of its stem from top to bottom. The outside of each round leaf was lacey. The bizarre part was that I stuck my finger out to touch it and it leaned over almost like static electricity and made contact with my finger tip. I tried it several times with the same result. What in the world is this plant and did it have anything to do with me having a stomach ache since the label said good for stomach aches?

ANSWER:

It sounds as if you went to the Julian Women's Club Wildflower Show and it sounds like a fascinating event.  Apparently, they had wildflowers from the area on display with information about Native American uses for the various wildflowers.  It would have been a really good idea to ask them about the plant while you were there, because I don't really have a good idea what it could be. 

Plants can move, of course.  First there are directional growth responses to external stimuli. These are called tropisms. Their roots grow downward in response to gravity (gravitropism).  Many flowers (e.g., sunflowers) track the sun (phototropism).  The tendrils of twining plants move as they search for something to twine around and when they touch something they immediately begin to curve around the object (thigmotropism).  Then there are movements that are caused by touching or vibrating the plant.  These are called nastic movements, specifically seismonasty or thigmonasty.  Examples of this are the leaves of Mimosa roemeriana (Roemer's mimosa) that close when touched or the trap of Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap) that closes when an insect touches sensitive bristles inside it.  There are also plants that change leaf orientation depending on whether it is night or day—called nyctinasty.  However, I don't know of any mechanism that would attract the plant to your finger.  My guess is that there was something akin to spider silk that you couldn't see hanging from the plant.  When your finger touched it, it caused the plant to bend towards your finger. 

Also, I think "Good for stomach aches" would mean that it was good for curing stomach aches, not causing them.  Additionally, I am pretty skeptical of the plant making your stomach feel better (or worse) simply from your touching it. For plant remedies to be effective for internal problems, you would need to ingest plant material some way either by eating some part of the plant or drinking an infusion made from plant material.

Again, I'm sorry but I don't recognize the plant you describe.  You might contact the Julian Women's Club (listed under "Service Organizations" on the Julian, California webpage) to see if they have a list of the plants that were displayed at their wildflower show.  You might be able to figure out which one it was on the list.  If you took a photo of the plant, you can visit our Plant Identification page to find several plant forums that accept photos of plants for identification.

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification of a trillium in New Jersey
June 23, 2011 - I have several Trillium grown from one seed source. The plant looks like Trillium cuneatum, but unlike that plant, the stems of these plants -- which seed freely in my Northwest New Jersey garden -- l...
view the full question and answer

Existence of plant named
May 30, 2006 - My mother's middle name is Orabelle - "beautiful seacoast." Some variations are "Orabel" and "Ord." Is there a plant that is so named and where might I be able to purchase it? I live in Norf...
view the full question and answer

State flower of Hawaii
January 04, 2006 - What color is the state flower of Hawaii?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
April 02, 2012 - I found a plant on a small island about the size of a hand. It is spring so plant is just coming out of the ground. It is wrapped around a bulb/flower light color with little knobs on it. The outsi...
view the full question and answer

What trees in Austin right now have yellow leaves that are falling?
December 08, 2008 - Right now there are trees in Austin that have bright yellow leaves. Do you know what trees native to Austin turn a very bright yellow in November? It looks like now the leaves are starting to fall off...
view the full question and answer

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