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

Mystery plant in hay fields in Tennessee
July 13, 2008 - I found plants growing in my hay fields that are about 4 feet tall, large leaves and blooms (ball shaped) bell flowers.That is, the blooms looks like a pom pom with about 50 to 80 small flowers "hang...
view the full question and answer

Identification of yellow blooming plants near Temple, Texas
November 07, 2011 - This question may be a challenge. We noticed fields of yellow blooming plants in the fields east of Temple. They appear to be about 4 inches tall. (we were on a bus and could not stop to look cl...
view the full question and answer

Identification of vine in Louisiana
July 06, 2011 - I have two vines in my backyard. I've looked at pictures of each and they both keep coming up "virginia creeper." However, both are different. Neither causes an allergic reaction. One has leaflets ...
view the full question and answer

Differentiation between Amorpha roemeriana and A. fruticosa
April 25, 2006 - How do I differentiate Amorpha roemeriana and A. fruticosa? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification from Tamaqua PA
August 08, 2010 - I live in PA, have a plant growing in my geranium planter, was told it was a moonflower, but it is not a vine. The flower is a white trumpet, six star, with purple in the middle. leaves look like ...
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