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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 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!

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

 
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Wednesday - September 28, 2011

From: Pine Grove, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification, Seeds and Seeding
Title: Dill-like plant in veggie garden in California
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a plant that appeared in my veggie garden. Looks like dill in spring when green, but the leaves smell more like turpentine! Now, 4-5 foot tall, brown, it produces lots of small, oval - not crescent shaped-seeds that taste like caraway. Could this be edible, wild caraway?

ANSWER:

Here are photos and information about Carum carvi (wild caraway), a native of Asia, Europe and Africa.  The seeds as seen on the USDA Plants Database certainly don't look like the ones you describe.  However, your plant is likely another member of the Family Apiaceae (Carrot Family).  There are many, both native and non-native, and they can be difficult to tell apart. Here are a few possibilities with similar leaves:

There are a lot more possibilities.

Seeds (or rather the fruits) are one way to tell them apart.  Here are links to photos of Apiaceae seeds from USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).

If none of the plants or seeds above, look like your plant, your best bet to figure out what you have is to take photos and then visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that accept photos for identification.  Photos of both the seeds and the plant would be most useful to someone trying to identify the plant.

 

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