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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - June 18, 2011

From: Andalusia, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification of Indian Cane
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in southern Alabama. We have a plant that is wild but I can not find any info on it. My grandmother called it Indian Cane. The stems are red and you can chew them, they have a sour taste

ANSWER:

I remember as a child in East Texas chewing on the stem of a plant that we called "sourweed".  It could have been either Rumex acetosella (sheep's sorrel, red sorrel or sour weed), a native of Europe or the North American native sour dock or sourweed, Rumex hastatulus (heartwing sorrel).  Both plants grow in East Texas and Alabama and both plants have reddish stems.  I suspect one of these is that plant your grandmother called Indian Cane.  Here is an article that has Indian Cane as one of the common names of Rumex acetosella.   There are several other members of the Genus Rumex (sour docks), some native and some introduced, that you can read about in this article on the webpage of Plants of California: A guide to useful, edible, and medicinal plants of California.  There is a little confusion about the labeling of the pictures on their page since they label R. crispus as an American Native Plant and R. hymenosepalous as a European import; whereas,  according to the USDA Plants Database, Rumex crispus (curly dock) is the introduced species from Eurasia (here are more photos) and Rumex hymenosepalus (Canaigre dock) is a native western North American species. You can check the USDA Plants Database maps of the distribution of Rumex spp. to see those that occur in Alabama, but I would bet that your grandmother's Indian Cane was probably R. acetosella, possibly R. hastatulus.

 

From the Image Gallery


Heart-wing sorrel
Rumex hastatulus

Heart-wing sorrel
Rumex hastatulus

Heart-wing sorrel
Rumex hastatulus

Heart-wing sorrel
Rumex hastatulus

More Plant Identification Questions

Taxonomic question about Viola missouriensis and Viola affinis.
March 28, 2011 - I have tentatively identified a violet as either Viola affinis or V. missouriensis. However, the pages for those species are dated 2007 and 2009, respectively, in the NPIN, while it read...
view the full question and answer

Seed pod of Proboscidea louisianica (Deveil's claw) in New Mexico
August 30, 2014 - I found the most amazing seed pods of the devil's claw right here in Albuquerque. I thought it was a wood skeleton of a pterodactyl (flying dinosaur, I believe), but heard it's a devil's claw. Ok...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 19, 2013 - My nephew bought an old farmhouse in Southeast Texas. There is a plant there that has glossy leaves similar to a lemon leaf. I cannot tell from the pic if it is a shrub or a vine. It is blooming now, ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 18, 2010 - My daughter is working on a wildflower collection for her Biology class, we have found a flower, that, for appearances sake, is identified in books as Selfheal. This flower is taller than pictures we...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification from Springfield MA
July 19, 2009 - We have a house next to us that is vacant. The lawn has not been mowed in months. a tall flower has grown amongst the grass and weeds. It is about 3 to 4 feet tall green stem and the flower is about 2...
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