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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!

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Tuesday - January 31, 2012

From: Peru, IL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Identification of bushes with red berries in Tennessee
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I was recently traveling thru Clarksville, TN and saw these bushes (at the shopping mall) that had clusters of small red berries on them. They were not a Holly that I know of. The leaves were not thick & shiny like holly..more of a narrow pointed leaf. The berries were in clusters hanging (such as grapes). I would love to find out what these are and if they would grow in Illinois. Thanks for your help :-)

ANSWER:

If it is a native shrub, you can search for it in our Native Plant Database by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH.  Choose "Tennessee" from the Select State or Province option and "Shrub" from Habit (general appearance).  This will give you a list of 150 species with thumbnail photos to do a preliminary search.  When you find a photo that is similar to the shrub, you can go to the species page to see a description and more photos.  I assume that the shrub is evergreen since you mention leaves and berries together.  You can also limit your search to evergreens under the heading Leaf retention.  I didn't find any evergreen shrubs that matched your description, but you should look through them yourself.     Here also is a webpage from Eastern Tennessee Wildflowers showing shrubs with fruits to look through.

The fact that you saw the shrubs at a shopping mall, however, is likely to mean that they are a cultivated import.  One shrub that comes to mind is Nandina domestica (heavenly bamboo).  Although it is an attractive evergreen shrub it, unfortunately, is listed by Invasive.org.  Here is more information about the invasiveness of heavenly bamboo from Texas Invasives.  If it is heavenly bamboo, we would hope you wouldn't want to try to grow it in Illinois because of its potential invasiveness.  Additionally, its "hardiness" is listed by Floridata as being Zones 6 to 9.  Clarksville, Tennessee appears to be in the USDA Hardiness Zone 7a; but Peru, Illinois in La Salle County appears to be USDA Hardiness Zone 5b.  Heavenly bamboo would probably have a difficult time growing there anyway since your temperatures fall below those of Zone 6.

 

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