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

Wednesday - June 13, 2012

From: Saint Louis, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identity of bulbs from digging in an anthole
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I was digging in an ant hole and it collapsed and as I dug it out, I found around 50 white bulbs that did not have a smell or roots. They resembled onion bulbs. I have a picture of these and they are actually a little more slender than your traditional onion bulb. What are these?

ANSWER:

That's a really tough question because: 

1)  You didn't say where you digging.  Was it in the woods?  in a flower bed? in your lawn?

2)  Did the bulbs have any other living plant material with them?  a stem?  leaves?

3)  What size were they?  an inch in diameter?  half an inch?

The toughest part of the question is, however, that even if you had provided these facts, there really isn't a database for identifying bulbs.  Also, there are several bulb-like structures—corms, tubers, tuberous roots, rhizomes—that are confused with true "bulbs".  Many plants in the Family Liliaceae (Lily Family), Family Iridaceae (Iris Family) and Family Orchidaceae (Orchid family) have bulbs, but there are many other plant families that have bulbs as well so there isn't really a good place to start a search for what type of bulbs they might be.  Here are the plant families that the Pacific Bulb Society lists as having bulbs.  You can see by their page "What is a Bulb" that their definition is not as strict as the one given above.

If the bulbs you dug up were in a flower bed or a lawn, they are very likely a bulb from a non-native plant and, since our focus and expertise are with plants native to North America, we aren't like to be much help in identifying them.

If you found them in the woods or where other native plants grow naturally, it is more likely that they are the bulbs from native plants.  If you normally visit the area, do you remember seeing plants growing where you were digging?  That would give you a clue as to what they are.

Either way, your best bet to find out what they are is to either plant the bulbs you dug out and see what grows from them or watch the area where you dug them to see what sort of plants show up there.  When you have a plant to associate with the bulbs, take a photo of it (wait for it to bloom, if possible), then visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.  You could try submitting a photo of the bulbs you found to one of these forums, but I think it is very unlikely that anyone could identify them.

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
August 13, 2008 - Bought a plant don't know what it is or how to care for it. It looks like it's dying. Description: light to dark green, long, skinny, rounded trunk, surrounded and topped with grass like blades(top ...
view the full question and answer

A stinging plant in Moultrie, GA?
April 28, 2010 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I was walking along in my lawn in some flip-flops and my foot barely grazed my ankle. As soon as it had happened, I felt this horrible pain, like a million tiny, invisible splinter...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
April 04, 2010 - There is a wildflower growing in my pasture. It is low growing, triangle leaves, flowers are blue, five petals with what looks like a white flower in the middle. Gods blessings to all there.
view the full question and answer

Identification of Sagittaria-like plant with purple flowers
July 21, 2011 - I have collected a wetland plant that I can't seem to identify. Its an emergent plant collected along with a species of sagittaria. Very similar in leaf structure to an sagittaria or alisima, but i...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Hesperaloe parviflora
August 22, 2005 - On your home website there is an orange flower that is tall and has tall leaves. is it a cactus? Thanks.
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center