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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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Thursday - June 07, 2012

From: Conroe, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Identification of plant with seed pods that have red seeds
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I was working for a landscaping company and I was told to clean up around the pool area. I started cleaning up then I noticed this dark brown pod on the ground. At first I thought it was a piece of animal dung so I left it alone until I came back through. I had to pick it up anyway so I did and that's when I saw it was a seed pod off the bush I was cleaning under. Being curious I opened it up and there they were. little red seeds about the diameter of a pencil eraser. I just thought they were cool looking So I stuck them in my pocket and went about working. I was just wondering what kind of plant it is. The seeds themselves are a little darker than a buckeye but they have the white eye on them. The bush had bunches of tiny flowers growing in a kind of cone shape that drooped down. The pods while still green are 3-4 chambered. the end kinda curled up in a point. I hope this is enough to go on because I really want to know what this is. Just curious now and it's eating me up.

ANSWER:

The pods and the seeds sound like something one would find on a shrub from the Family Fabaceae (Pea Family).   Since it is around the pool area and most likely put there by a landscaping company (maybe the one you work for) it is likely a non-native cultivar.   Our focus and expertise here at the Wildflower Center are with plants native to North America so we can't tell you a lot about non-native cultivars, but I will see what I can find that might be native and produce red seeds.  One native member of the Pea Family that has red seeds is  Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel), but that is obviously NOT what you saw since it has purple flowers.  Another native member of the Pea Family with red seeds, Erythrina herbacea (Coralbean), not only has red seeds but red flowers.

To try to find a native plant with seeds and flowers that match your description, I did a search in our Native Plant Database by choosing "Fabaceae (Pea Family)" from the Family slot.   When the list of over 400 plants appeared I used the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to choose "Texas" from the Select State or Province slot, "Shrub" from the General Appearance slot and "White" from Bloom Color.  The only shrub that resembled the one you described is Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood).  Here is a link to a photo of its seeds.

You can see photos of selected seeds of Fabaceae on the Seed ID Workshop from Ohio State University.

If you have a photo of the bush and its flowers, you can visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Coralbean
Erythrina herbacea

Texas kidneywood
Eysenhardtia texana

Texas kidneywood
Eysenhardtia texana

Texas kidneywood
Eysenhardtia texana

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