En Español

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

Tall lily with dark berry at leaf attachment
June 25, 2012 - A lily showed up in my flower garden last year (central Illinois); about 3' tall, a single dark berry at the stem where each leaf is attached. It didn't flower. This year it's approaching 4' tall ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of bushes with red berries in Tennessee
January 31, 2012 - I was recently traveling thru Clarksville, TN and saw these bushes (at the shopping mall) that had clusters of small red berries on them. They were not a Holly that I know of. The leaves were not th...
view the full question and answer

Grapevine at the Wildflower Center
November 05, 2013 - Hello :) I recently visited the Lady Bird Wildflower Center for Goblins in the Garden. I'm curious if you all know exactly what type of grape is growing in the back of the garden near the "Heali...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification, possibly Datura
September 07, 2007 - I have a wide green-leafed plant that has white flowers. This plant also has some thorny fruits in the shape of mines that float on the ocean. At the moment it is 2 feet high. I'm beginning to wo...
view the full question and answer

Plant identfication for Roosevelt Park, NY
August 28, 2009 - Looking for the name and chemical breakdown of a tree. Its leaves are green with heart like puffs blooming out. This tree was seen at Roosevelt Park, Long Island NY 11575
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center