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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.

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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.

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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!

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Wednesday - September 14, 2011

From: Kennesaw, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Edible Plants, Poisonous Plants
Title: Plant identification in Georgia
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I saw the same question that I was going to ask about the plant that folds its leaves at dusk, with sparse branches, rapid growth, small yellow flowers and long (whisker-like, but do not appear to be seed pods) hanging from the branches. We live in Georgia (near Atlanta) and have never seen this plant before (are originally from PA). Saw a post on another site with a picture of the plant from someone in PA. Very interested in finding out this plants name.

ANSWER:

After some confusion about your question on my part (e.g., "Where did you see the question—was it in Mr. Smarty Plants' database?"), I decided to Google "plants that fold their leaves at night" and I believe that I found the site with the photo from Pennsylvania you mentioned finding.  Clicking on "View Follow-Ups" at the bottom of their page I found comments from other readers with a name for the plant.   It is Senna obtusifolia (Java-bean or sicklepod).  Here are more photos.  Even though it is a plant native to North America, it is considered an invasive weed in several southeastern states.  The long whisker-like green objects that hang from the branches are its seed pods.  Poisonous Plants of North Carolina lists the seeds as poisonous if eaten in large quantities.  However, the mature seeds after being roasted, have been used as a substitute for coffee—thus, its alternate name of Java-weed or coffeeweed.  Additionally, the young shoots can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Java-bean
Senna obtusifolia

Java-bean
Senna obtusifolia

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