Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - August 10, 2012

From: Antelope, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of gourd plant growing in central California
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I am not sure if this flowering plant is native to North America. It is found in dry land grazing fields at about 100 feet in elevation in central California. It is large--2-6 feet across with a sticky smelly substance on the hairy leaves, multiple yellow lipped bilateral flowers with a red throat on a stem. The cucumber/gourd like fruit I saw was immature, but was horn-shaped, quite bulbous at the stem end and pencil thin at the tip. I have photos, if that would help.

ANSWER:

My first thought was that you had found Cucurbita foetidissima (Stinking gourd), but the flower shape and the fruit shape are wrong.  They are, however, gourds and pretty stinky. 

We think what you saw was the non-native species, Ibicella lutea (Yellow unicorn-plant), a weed introduced from South America.  The flowers are the right shape, the young fruits are the correct shape and it has leaves covered with sticky hairs.  You can see that the fruits turn into a dramatic seed case with two formidable-looking claws.  Another common name for the plant is Devil's Claw.  Ibicella lutea is closely related to several, closely-related North American native plant species classified in the genus, Proboscidea, including the very similar, Proboscidea althaeifolia.

If this doesn't happen to be the plant you saw, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Identity of tree in Grant AL
November 26, 2009 - What is the name of the tree in N.E. Alabama that has a big green heart shaped leaf in Nov. with clusters or nuts & blonde small nuts the size of a pea . And deer are eating the small blonde nut in No...
view the full question and answer

Houseplant identification
October 15, 2014 - Had a houseplant with leaves that were green on the top and purplish on the bottom. The leaves were velvety to the touch. Would like to know what it was.
view the full question and answer

Identification of a vine with 3 leaves and a red trunk
January 02, 2014 - What is a vine with 3 leaves that has a red trunk?
view the full question and answer

Identifying Rhus lanceolata in Texas
April 28, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I think I've identified two small trees, 4 to 5 feet high at the back fence line and two in the front yard flower beds as prairie flameleaf sumac (or at least some kind of s...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of a trillium in New Jersey
June 23, 2011 - I have several Trillium grown from one seed source. The plant looks like Trillium cuneatum, but unlike that plant, the stems of these plants -- which seed freely in my Northwest New Jersey garden -- l...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.