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

Differentiating between Spiraea betulifolia and Spiraea japonica
April 12, 2005 - How can I tell the difference between Spiraea betulifolia var. corymbosa (an imperiled species) and Spiraea japonica (an invasive species) in the wild? They both seem to be the same size, color, habi...
view the full question and answer

Lily of the Valley growing in Red River County, TX
March 26, 2012 - Mr. SP, I just returned from Red River County, TX where I observed Lily of the Valley growing in a very old cemetery. Is this unusual for this area of the country?
view the full question and answer

Shrub with thorns, black fruit and citrus fragrance in Michigan
September 19, 2014 - I'm not sure that my plant is a native, but I'm hoping to find some answer. There is a small patch of roadside shrubs on my property which I've been unable to identify. They have simple opposite ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of tiny blue flower blooming in February
March 18, 2013 - There is a very small four petal flower that appears near the end of Winter. (This year they appeared in late Feb). These little flowers are a "Light Blueish" hue. They are around a quarter inch ac...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 22, 2010 - I live in Austin. Texas. My garden has been lying fallow for several seasons and earlier this week I started clearing the weeds and wild flowers in hopes of getting our vegetable garden started again...
view the full question and answer

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