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
1 rating

Monday - July 18, 2011

From: Covington, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Shrubs
Title: Mystery shrub in Michigan
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I live in the upper peninsula of Michigan and noticed a shrub in the woods that has large clusters of small red, what I would call berries on it. Can you give me some names of wild plants that would match my description. The plants were four or five feet tall and very brushy.

ANSWER:

Your question has been forwarded to the Canadian Green Guru because I live in an ecozone very similar to yours on the Eastern Shore of Georgian Bay.

The shrub that comes to mind first is Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa (Red elderberry) because it is quite common in this area and has clusters of red berries on it right now.  It was blooming back in May/June. The other elderberry native to your area, Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (Common elderberry) is flowering now and will have purple berries later in the season.

If you visit our Native Plant Database and do a Combination Search for Michigan, selecting shrubs and part shade to shade (light conditions in the woods) it will generate a list of shrubs that fit that description.  Each plant on the list is linked to a detailed information page with images.  You can look through those and see if you find your plant.  Not many on that list have "large clusters of small red berries", but a couple of other possibilities are:

Shepherdia canadensis (Russet buffaloberry) This plant should have red berries on it now, but they aren't really clusters.

and

Viburnum lantanoides (Hobblebush)  This plant is not native to Michigan but is to Central Ontario, so it could very well be present in your woods.  The leaves are significantly different from those of the elderberries' and it usually doesn't have berries on it until later in the summer so you should be able to ID it from the images.

Of course you have piqued our curiosity, so please let us know if you can identify it.

 

From the Image Gallery


Red elderberry
Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

Red elderberry
Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Russet buffaloberry
Shepherdia canadensis

Hobblebush
Viburnum lantanoides

Hobblebush
Viburnum lantanoides

More Plant Identification Questions

Natural location of Ceanothus impressus in California
May 21, 2006 - Where is Ceanothus impressus 'victoria' native? I need as specific as you can. Thanks much.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification--Mock Orange
June 08, 2009 - I "grew up" with what I was told was a "Mockorange Bush." I've been looking around to be able to try to identify what variety it was. To be specific, the one that I am familiar with had little...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
August 13, 2008 - Bought a plant don't know what it is or how to care for it. It looks like it's dying. Description: light to dark green, long, skinny, rounded trunk, surrounded and topped with grass like blades(top ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of riparian plant in Pennsylvania
June 05, 2013 - I'm wondering if this is a native plant: the plant is 3-5ft. tall, it has a tough reedy stalk, grows in sunny riparian areas, has whorled leaves with toothed margin, and has elongated clusters of tin...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification from Alpharetta GA
September 28, 2009 - I found a thorny bush in a yard. It had either immature fruit or a seed pod that I would like identified. The pod was a little larger than a golf ball, yellow, and a little fuzzy. When cut open it ...
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