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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 21, 2012

From: Baltimore, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of small plant with white flowers in Baltimore, MD
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

It's a small plant, has flowers in June, four white petals with large, tall conical center, about no more than an inch in diameter. The leaves are alternating with branched veins. It stays at about 6" high, grows in deep shade, comes in variegated as well. It is spreading through the lawn by its roots. One of my tenants planted it. It puts up with a lot of abuse. Baltimore is famous for its acidic clay soil.

ANSWER:

Since you said that one of your tenants planted it, Mr. Smarty Plants is very suspicious that this isn't a native plant.  However, I did do a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database choosing "Maryland" from the Select State or Province option, "Herb" from Habit (general appearance) and "White" from Bloom color.  You could do the same search on your own and look through the photos and read the descriptions.  I found the following four plants that partially fit your description:

Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry dogwood).  Here are more photos and information from Plants of Wisconsin.

Cardamine concatenata (Cutleaf toothwort).  Here are more photos and information from Connecticut Botanical Society.

Cakile edentula (American searocket).  Here are more photos and information from Connecticut Botanical Society.

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry).  Here are more photos and information from Duke University.

Diodia virginiana (Buttonweed).  Here are more photos and information from Missouri Plants.

I suspect that none of these is the plant that is growing in your lawn.  However, if you have—or can take—photos, you will find links to several plant identification forums on our Plant Identification page that would accept your photos of the plant to be identified.

 

From the Image Gallery


Bunchberry dogwood
Cornus canadensis

Cutleaf toothwort
Cardamine concatenata

American searocket
Cakile edentula

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Virginia buttonweed
Diodia virginiana

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