En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Identification of plant in wildflower show

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
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

Identification of stem from a bouquet
January 02, 2012 - I have a stem with leaves that came in a bouquet May 2011. They are still healthy in a vase of water tho they have no roots, just stem. On the back center of each leaf are protrusions half an inch lon...
view the full question and answer

Identification of tree with fuschia berries in Pennsylvania
October 26, 2008 - Northeastern Pennsylvania tree with fuschia berries in autumn. Found one in woods,never saw one before.
view the full question and answer

Weird-looking rootless plant, perhaps a fungus
August 23, 2008 - While out it my backyard (i.e. the Black Hills of South Dakota), I spotted a weird-looking rootless plant (I think it may be a fungus) growing beneath the Ponderosa Pines. It was the only one in the a...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 21, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, Hopefully you can help identify the following plant. I've had a bush type of weed growing near my hay feeder for the cows this year that's about 2' tall has massive spikes o...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
November 14, 2008 - On our farm we found a plant that we had never seen before. It has long stems coming from center ground level and is about 3 feet tall, looks like a fern from far off. The leaves (length of finger) ...
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