En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - May 01, 2012

From: West Lake Hills, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Problem Plants
Title: How Can I Tell an Invasive Thistle from a Native
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

Mr Smarty Plants, I have some thistles coming up in my yard. I'd like to keep them if they are native, but not if they are invasive or non-native. How can I tell? My yard is a wild area in West Lake Hills, TX.

ANSWER:

It would seem you have asked a simple question, but in reality you haven't. As you can see from this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer, there are quite a few different plants that occur in central Texas that can be called some sort of thistle. As this answer makes clear, it can be difficult to tell the natives and non-natives apart and it requires a fair amount of research.

To help simplify mattes, I am going to assume that the thistles in your yard are the ones with the pink/lavender flowers that are blooming all around central Texas at this time of year. If you have the ones with yellow or white flowers, go back to that previous answer.

In her book Wildflowers of Texas, Geyata Ajilvsgi includes two thistles with pink/lavender flowers which I take to mean they are among the most common. They are:

Cirsium texanum (Texas thistle) - As you would guess from its name, this is a native thistle

Carduus nutans (nodding thistle) - This is a non-native. It is listed as an invasive plant by both Texasinvasives.org and the USDA. Another common name for it is musk thistle.

These are very similar in appearance. I sought help with identification methods from Minette Marr at the lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and she suggested a article published by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service at Oklahoma State University entitled Thistles in Oklahoma and Their Identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas thistle
Cirsium texanum

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant ID in Springfield OR
July 08, 2009 - I recently discovered a wildflower closely resembling the Oregon Lady Slipper, apparently a wild orchid, but with many blooms on a single long stem and with no apparent leaves. I'd like more informat...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 19, 2013 - My nephew bought an old farmhouse in Southeast Texas. There is a plant there that has glossy leaves similar to a lemon leaf. I cannot tell from the pic if it is a shrub or a vine. It is blooming now, ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
October 25, 2009 - Deer are devastating understory in our woods. We have a highly resistant shrub purchased years ago at the state arboretum plant sale. It is about 5-6' tall, somewhat wider than that, many suckers/o...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
December 06, 2007 - I had a coworker bring back a branch of tree from San Antonio and the end of the branch fans out into a drapery type structure about a foot long with bud looking things all over it, almost fungally lo...
view the full question and answer

Plant ID in Woodbury TN
July 07, 2009 - Please help identify this unusual plant. I am in Middle TN, Cannon County. This plant comes up every year and looks like something tropical. It has huge leaves about 16 + inches wide. and grows abo...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.

Bibliography

Wildflowers of Texas (2003) Ajilvsgi, Geyata.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center