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

Saturday - August 27, 2011

From: Aguanga, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Origin of sticky, smelly substance on dog in Southern California
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I just took my dog out (mid August) in Aguanga, CA (high desert) and, after coming back in, noted that his feet and legs were covered in a very sticky substance that STINKS - there is some kind of plant out there (my property doesn't have anything unnatural on it) that we must have gone through - just wondering what it could have been. I've lived in SoCal all my life, camping, etc., and never come across anything like it. It appears to be water soluble (thank god! He's an Aussie with fairly long hair) but the smell is very noticeable..sort of sweet but not in a good way!


This sounds like Polanisia dodecandra (Clammyweed); however, the USDA Plants Database distribution map doesn't show this plant growing as far south as Riverside County in California.  That doesn't necessarily mean that the plant doesn't occur there, but it hasn't been reported as growing there.  Here is more information about the plant from:

Illinois Wildflowers

Minnesota Wildflowers

U. S. Forest Service

If you have seen this plant in Riverside County, the Jepson Flora Project would like to know about it.

Other than this plant, I wasn't able to find another native plant that is reported as producing a sticky substance with an odor.

You might contact the Riverside/San Bernadino Chapter of the California Native Plant Society to see if they know any plant that might produce a sticky, smelly substance your dog could have encountered.


From the Image Gallery

Polanisia dodecandra

Polanisia dodecandra

Polanisia dodecandra

Polanisia dodecandra

More Plant Identification Questions

Identification of bluebonnet-like flower
May 14, 2012 - I have discovered a plant that looks like a bluebonnet but is much larger. It has leggy stems and similar leaf structure and the bonnet in more compact with purple vs blue flowers. The plant is growin...
view the full question and answer

Identity of yellow thistle-like plant
June 01, 2011 - Dear Mr.Smarty Plants, I see this flower along the road but I can't seem to find it on your website. It looks like a yellow thistle and it is a panicle and a head. It is about a foot tall. Do you kn...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on wildflower identification
September 23, 2004 - Can you recommend a good CD-ROM on wildflower identification? I live in Virginia and am constantly frustrated trying to identify the myriad wildflowers I encounter as I move around the state.
view the full question and answer

Rash resulting from cutting trees in NC.
May 08, 2012 - My boyfriend was cutting some trees yesterday. He had thorns in his hands after he was done, and today he has a rash on his legs, a fever and he feels like throwing up. Can you tell me if its symptoms...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 17, 2008 - I have a plant that I think is called a Brookmania or Bookmania. It has beautiful purple flowers with white centers and darker leaves. I cannot find any info on this flower.
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center