En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - July 26, 2011

From: Colorado Springs, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Plant Identification, Shrubs
Title: Name for paloverde look-alike near Colorado Springs
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I don't know where this plant comes from. However, I am wondering what the name of plant of the following description would be. It is a shrub, about 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. It grows in zone 6 to 5b. This may be its northern limit though. Colorado Springs is where I have seen this plant. I have only seen two of them. The appear similar to the Palo Verde of Arizona in branch and leaf habit, in that they have no leaves as seen from a distance and they have green branches.


None of the paloverdes (Parkinsonia aculeata (Retama), Parkinsonia florida (Blue paloverde), Parkinsonia microphylla (Yellow paloverde), or Parkinsonia texana var. macra (Texas paloverde) grow naturally in Colorado.   The nearest to Colorado is P. aculeata in southwestern Utah and southern New Mexico so it probably isn't one of them.  They probably wouldn't survive in zone 5b or 6.

Here are some possibilities, however, that might be the plant you describe:

Ephedra torreyana (Torrey joint-fir) or, perhaps, the closely related Ephedra viridis (Mormon tea) and Ephedra cutleri (Cutler's jointfir).  Here are more photos and information.  Also, Ephedra nevadensis occurs in eastern Utah.

 Koeberlinia spinosa (Crown of thorns), however, the USDA Plants Database map does not show it occurring in Colorado.

Pleiacanthus spinosus (thorn skeletonweed)  does not occur in Colorado (according to the USDA Plants Database) but does occur in adjacent Utah and here are more photos and information.

 Stephanomeria pauciflora (Brownplume wirelettuce) and here are more photos and information.

If none of the above is the plant you have seen, please visit our Plant Identification page where you will find links to several plant identification forums.  If you have a photo, you can submit it to one of them for identification.


From the Image Gallery

Torrey joint-fir
Ephedra torreyana

Mormon tea
Ephedra viridis

Crown of thorns
Koeberlinia spinosa

Brownplume wirelettuce
Stephanomeria pauciflora

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
June 17, 2011 - There is a sweet pea like vine that grows along the road in NC. IT is pink and looks much like a sweet pea. What is it?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
October 20, 2010 - Need to identify multi branched plant, feathery appearance, approx 6' tall stalks, grows in clusters. Tiny whitish/pink flowers at top of stems. Very similar in appearance to milfoil, only these grow...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
October 31, 2013 - I have a plant that is about 6ft high, single stem or 2 or 3 together. from this stem are leaves, alternate and large, about 5-6 inches long, they are about 2.5" wide, irregular edges from the middle...
view the full question and answer

Identification of pale blue flower near Big Bend, TX
March 14, 2013 - I have looked almost everywhere in order to ID this bloom with no luck. Some blooms do arrive close but not quite. I live just outside of Big Bend National Park in Terlingua, TX. On a hike into Dog Ca...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
September 24, 2008 - I have a single stem red vine with purple berries growing on it. It is in a cluster of bushes and gets mostly morning and early afternoon sun. The berries also have small bumps at the stem. I have ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center