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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!

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

 
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Sunday - November 13, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identity of large, sunflower-like plant
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We are trying to figure out the identity of a large, sunflower-like plant. It is a perennial that sends out approximately 10-12 stalks about 10 feet high. It then starts to bloom with small sunflower-like flowers starting from the top and over a few weeks, working all the blossoms down the stem. Any ideas?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants has thought a lot about this and has made a few assumptions that may or may not be right, but they are:

  1. The plant is in Texas.
  2. It is growing in the wild and not a cultivated plant growing in someone's garden.
  3. It was blooming in October.

If those assumptions are correct, here are a few possibilities: 

I think the most likely match is Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower).  Here are more photos.

Two more large sunflowers bloom in October in Texas:

Helianthus annuus (Common sunflower), but the flowers are large and bloom singly on a stem.

Helianthus argophyllus (Silverleaf sunflower) presents the same problems as the common sunflower.

Another large yellow-blooming plant that is seen around Austin at this time of the year is Tecoma stans (Yellow bells)—not a member of the Family Asteraceae (Aster Family), but in the Family Bignoniaceae (Trumpet Creeper Family).

If none of these is the plant you have seen and you have photos, please visit our Plant Identification page where you will find links to plant identification forums that will accept photos for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Maximilian sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani

Maximilian sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani

Maximilian sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani

Maximilian sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani

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