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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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Sunday - December 23, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, User Comments, Shrubs
Title: Comments on white-flowered Mountain Laurel from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Following up on the August 23, 2012, question from Driftwood about the white-flowering mountain laurel, I have found a few more leads to explore. First, there are four more images of white-flowering mountain laurel in your files. You found Nos. 4378, 18492, and 18493. I also found 18298 and 18489, which seem to be pure white, as well as 18255, which is almost completely white but has the slightest tinge of purple to some of the blooms, and 18482, which shows a plant with pure white blossoms except possibly for a few on one branch at the right side of the top of the photo. At the resolution I could view, it looks like the purple clusters are on the white-flowering plant, although it is possible that the picture is showing one branch from a purple-flowering plant that is intermingled with the branches of the white-flowering plant. Finally, image 4385 shows blossoms that have some purple petals and some pure white petals. A number of other photos seem to have at least some white or whitish areas on the flowers: 24675 and 24677, for example. So it does seem that some degree of variation within individual plants is possible. Beyond reviewing these photos, I noted these leads: the photographers. Sally and Andy Wasowski took photos 24675 and 24677. Perhaps a conversation with them (have they retired to New Mexico?) would shed some light on the issue. And Bennie Simpson took 18255, 18298, 18482, 18489, 18492, and 18493. I know Bennie is no longer with us, but his writings are. Having taken so many photographs of the white-flowering S. secundiflora, surely he also wrote something of it. I can't find his Texas Trees—isn't that the name?—in which I think he lists the mountain laurel as a plant that isn't quite a tree, although some people consider it to be one. He doesn't say a lot about each entry in that particular book, but you never know what you will learn from it. And if you have access to other writings of Bennie's, perhaps you'll find out more from them. Brother Daniel Lynch's volume about the native trees of the Hill Country might also be a good source. (I've got to finish working on the office; I can't believe I can find neither Bennie's nor Brother Dan's book!) Anyway, it's an interesting question, and I hope these leads will give you the opportunity to explore it further. Thanks!

ANSWER:

Thank you for the information on the white-flowered Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) in Driftwood TX. We are glad you have found our Image Gallery informative. Of course, we usually publish only one or two pictures at a time on any one plant on our answers to Mr. Smarty Plants questions. We could not find the previous question you mentioned, but we do remember it, we think. It was answered by Joe Marcus, a degreed Horticulturist on our staff. He not only had seen the plant previously mentioned in Driftwood, but he, himself, has taken a great many of the pictures in the Gallery. As we recall, the question involved gathering seeds from a white-flowered plant in hope they would seed true, but Joe's feeling was that they probably would not. However, in case someone else is researching this subject we will publish your comments in hopes they will be of assistance.

 

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