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
1 rating

Monday - September 03, 2012

From: Eminence, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Identity of plant in Kentucky with fuzzy grayish-green leaves
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I would like to know about a plant that I do not know what it is. I had this plant just come up in my flowerbed, that looked like a tobacco plant but the leaves looked like a lambs ear plant. It was grayish green color with fuzz on the leaves. It grew tall with flowers on top. When they died off I pull them up and got a bad itchy red bumpy rash. I had to go to the doctor twice to get rid of it. It has come up since and if I touch it I get the rash back. Would you have any idea what this is, someone told me it was Indian tobacco? Thanks Lisa Willhite


This sounds to me like Verbascum thapsus (mullein).  It is a native of Europe and Asia but the distribution map from the USDA shows it appearing all over North America.  The webpage for Plants for a Future and the Botanical Dermatology Database say that the hairs from the leaves can be an irritant.  It is considered a noxious weed in Hawaii and Colorado and the Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group has it on their Least Wanted list.

If this isn't the plant you found in your garden, you could take photos and then visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.


More Plant Identification Questions

Plant ID from The Woodlands TX
July 22, 2013 - Your plant database does not distinguish 2 native tree species. Common names for these 2 trees: American hophornbeam and ironwood or musclewood. These common names are used for both trees - even m...
view the full question and answer

Wildflower in southeastern Pennsylvania
May 20, 2008 - I live in southeastern Pennsylvania and want to identify a wild flower that is common along small town and rural roads and highways. It is blooming now (Mid May), has a flower spike similar to a larks...
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant that looks like a spider plant
February 25, 2008 - Okay Mr. Smarty Pants, I have an identification for you. I have no pictures, but I've been staring at this plant for weeks trying to figure out what it is. I got it as a cutting from a friend who got...
view the full question and answer

Invasive spreading weed in Michigan that looks like a small pine tree
July 29, 2013 - I have an invasive spreading weed in my gardens. It has black root system, comes up looking like a small pine tree. The green breaks off when you try to pull it.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 17, 2008 - I have a plant that I think is called a Brookmania or Bookmania. It has beautiful purple flowers with white centers and darker leaves. I cannot find any info on this flower.
view the full question and answer

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