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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - July 06, 2011

From: Bond Head, ON
Region: Canada
Topic: Plant Identification, Trees
Title: Mystery tree in Ontario
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I found a tree (similar to an apple tree in blossom) in a shaded area by a stream on our property. I have never seen anything like it. It is again, like an apple branch with the blossoms, however, the blossoms are white, trillium like in shape with a yellow centre, the size of a quarter. Do you know what this would be? I cut some branches and the blossoms have lived and not wilted.


This is a really intriguing question and has me baffled because of the somewhat conflicting information you have provided.

Plants are grouped in families because of the similarity of their flowers and apple trees (as well as plums, pears, peaches, cherries, hawthorns and mountain ash) are members of the rose family.  Their flowers are all single, five petalled, with a cluster of upright stamens in the centre.  Not anything like a trillium.

Although you are out of its native range as it is a tree of the Carolinian forest and you are situatued in the Eastern Deciduous Forest Region, I am wondering if it could be Cornus florida (Flowering dogwood).  The "flower" petals are as striking and clear white as a trillium, but there are 4, not three and they are blunt, not pointed like the trillium.  The Chinese Kousa Dogwood is similar but with pointed petals.  It is hardier than and flowers later than Cornus florida (in June).  Both dogwoods produce berries the birds love, but the kousa's berries are too large for the beaks of most of our migrating songbirds.  That hasn't stopped the tree from naturalizing in New York State.  So it is not out out of the question that you would find it in your woods.

The description of where you found the tree is more typical of the dogwoods than apple trees and it's relatives as well.  Other than its iconic flower, the most notable characteristic of Cornus florida is it's sympodial branching pattern, which leads to a somewhat horizontal and graceful form.

Follow the link to the detailed information page (with images) and let us know if we have guessed right. If not, we recommend you submit a photo to one of the plant identification forums we recommend.  We also recommend you obtain a copy of Linda Kershaw's informative and well organized book, Trees of Ontario to help you with tree identification. It is available in bookstores, at amazon.ca and even some Canadian Tire stores.


From the Image Gallery

Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

More Trees Questions

Landscaping with native plants in Austin
October 06, 2005 - I'm expanding a flower bed in front of my house and would like to keep it all natives. 1) How do I find out what type of soil I should add? (I live near Hyde Park, Austin and haven't had a soil te...
view the full question and answer

Natural privacy hedge for Kyle Texas
January 06, 2014 - I am looking to make a natural privacy screen in the Kyle Texas area. I am being pointed towards Leyland Cypress by some and told to shy away from this tree by others. I found Green Giant Arborvitae a...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Texas Mountain Laurel
September 04, 2014 - I've had a Texas mountain laurel for 4 years that's being trained into a tree. I think it was a 3-year old tree when I purchased it. Unfortunately, it has suffered from overwatering, and the two mai...
view the full question and answer

Care of huisache tree (Acacia farnesiana)
September 25, 2007 - I bought a huisache tree, about one ft. tall, last spring. How do I prune, stake, and care for it as it grows? Do they usually bloom in Brownwood, Tx ?
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for a privacy screen besides Murray Cypress.
October 18, 2011 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in NE TX, about an hour east of Dallas on I-20. I hear interstate traffic behind my house, and have a busy street on its left side, and a school adjoining in back. I thi...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center