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?


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

Wednesday - May 30, 2012

From: Fort Worth, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus


I had a strange plant pop up in my yard this year, and I figured maybe you guys could help me out. This plant is spreading along the ground, and the stem is woody right where it is coming out of the ground. It has complex leaflets, and I'm not sure if I'm using the terminology correctly, but I mean that the stems have little stems coming off of them that are covered in neat little leaflets. At first I thought it was some kind of fern, but then it started pushing up separate stems with a spiky little ball on the end of them, and in the course of a few days, all of those little spikes starting opening up into little flowers about an eighth of an inch long. They apparently pollinated, because now the plant has slightly curved seedpods growing up from the plant that kind of resemble claws, and some of them are already two inches long. The leaflets fold up at night and during the day when the sun is hitting it directly. The little plant is growing in a little area that is shaded for most of the day.


From your description your plant sound like one of the species of Desmanthus.  According to the USDA Plant Database there are 3 species that occur in or adjacent to Tarrant County.  You can see the county distribution for each of those below by clicking on Texas on its distribution map.

Desmanthus illinoensis (Illinois bundleflower)

Desmanthus leptolobus (Slenderlobe bundleflower) and here are photos and more information.

Desmanthus velutinus (Velvet bundleflower) and here are more photos.

We think the most likely identity for your plant is Desmanthus velutinus (Velvet bundleflower).   The Illinois bundleflower seed pods are very curved even when young and green and the fruits of D. leptolobus is usually not as indented as those of D. velutinus.


From the Image Gallery

Illinois bundleflower
Desmanthus illinoensis

Illinois bundleflower
Desmanthus illinoensis

Velvet bundleflower
Desmanthus velutinus

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
June 12, 2014 - We live in Magnolia TX and have a shrub we can't identify. It's evergreen and has waxy leaves with a serrated edge that are about an inch in length. They have pink flowers and they grow to ab...
view the full question and answer

Distinguishing non-native Wisteria from Austin
June 25, 2012 - How do I distinguish a native wisteria from a non-native wisteria?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 07, 2011 - Please help me identify this volunteer plant in my back yard in Austin, TX. It has long thorns. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Backward blooming Jack-in-the-pulpit
April 18, 2008 - why does my jack in the pulpit plant bloom backwards
view the full question and answer

Identification of tall dry, stalk plant in Central Texas
January 19, 2011 - I'm trying to identify a plant from my childhood in Central Texas, as I'd like to evaluate its potential as a biofuel crop. It is a stalk-plant, growing quite tall, 7-8' on average, with knobbed...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center