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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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Saturday - May 12, 2012

From: Euless , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I don't know if they are native or not, My mom bought some plants at an event at the Dallas Convention Center that all had rocks and little dirt that they sat on. The bases of the plants were large and looked like they store water. I have been trying to find some online and have not been able to. I really want to get one as my mom loved them before she passed. The 2 we had had the large bulb base with little vines coming out. The other had the large bulb base but 3 small sticks coming up with leaves. PLEASE tell me what kind of plants these are. We only watered once a month or so.

ANSWER:

The plants you are describing sound like the caudiciforms.  One of them, Beaucarnea recurvata (Pony tail palm), a native of Mexico, is often grown as a houseplant, but can grow into a tree 30 feet high.  Although this one is called a palm, it isn't really in the palm family.  The USDA Plants Database puts it in the Family Liliaceae (Lily Family),  ITIS (Integrared Taxonomic Information System) puts it in the Family Asparagaceae (Asparagus Family) and Bihrmann's Caudiciform's page gives the family as Family Nolinaceae (Nolina Family). There are links to more information and photographs of more species on the Bihrmann's Caudiciform page.   None of these are native to any further north than Mexico.   Some of them are native to South America, Madagascar and Africa.  Since they are not native to North America (other than Mexico) we don't have additional information about them.

 

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