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?


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
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


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?


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, possibly genus Lonicera
September 30, 2007 - My friend found a plant growing in her timber (in Iowa). It has round green leaves with groups of green balls (seed pods?) growing in the center of the leaves. The stems appear to attach to the cente...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification for shrub in Florida
September 03, 2011 - On our street we have ornamental shrub planted in the median that has small waxy green leaves, produces small fragrant white flowers, and red berries with white pulp and small seeds on the inside. Th...
view the full question and answer

Plant identfication
July 27, 2009 - My wife and I have our first summer garden at our new home in the Panhandle of Texas. Included within our crop are several alien large, broad stalk, broad leaved plants with an extremely pungent, offe...
view the full question and answer

Bleeding Heart-Like Plant Identification in PA
May 09, 2015 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants. We have a plant that looks almost like the bleeding heart, as in the way the bell shaped (not heart) white flowers hang downward on the stem. However, the leaves are broader and...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 05, 2009 - Large leaf plant over 5 feet tall red stems and purple almost black flat berries in large clumps. Any idea?
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center