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

Monday - May 13, 2013

From: Boise, ID
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of artichoke-like plant in Idaho
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

There is a plant/weed growing in the front yard, my mom says it is a flower I say a weed. It looks a lot like an open artichoke and is the same size. It is green except on the tips where it is deep purple. I have searched high and low and can't figure out what it is. Please help! Thank you

ANSWER:

Cynara scolymus, the edible globe artichoke, is a native of the Mediterranean and introduced here as a food plant.  Here are more photos and information from Plants for a Future.  It is a type of thistle.  There  is also Cynara cardunculus (cardoon), its wild introduced relative.  Here are more photos and information from Plants for a Future.

There are other thistles that occur in Idaho.  The native ones in the genus Cirsium are:

Cirsium brevistylum (Clustered thistle) and here are photos of the plant from CalPhotos University of California-Berkeley.

Cirsium canescens (Prairie thistle)

Cirsium edule (Edible thistle)

Cirsium flodmanii (Flodman's thistle)

Cirsium foliosum (Elk thistle)

Cirsium scariosum (Meadow thistle) and here are photos from Southwest Colorado Wildflowers.

There are four thistles that are classified as noxious weeds in Idaho.  They are Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle), Carduus nutans (musk thistle), Onopordum acanthium (Scotch thistle), and Centaurea solstitialis (Yellow starthistle)—all are Eurasian imports.

Here are more photos and information on:  Canada thistle from the National Park Service, Musk thistle from Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group "Least Wanted". and   Scotch thistle from Texas Invasives.

Perhaps your flower/weed is one of the native or introduced thistles.  If you have photographs of it and don't recognize it in the ones I've suggested above, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.

Now, whether it is a wildflower or a weed is up to individual interpretation—one person's weed is another's wildflower!

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant ID from Bracketville TX
June 23, 2010 - A volunteer plant, 3 feet. 4 to 5 Dark green leaves from a central point, diamond shaped very serrated leaves with dark spots within the the leave. Stem is reddish. flowers are pinkish, small and clus...
view the full question and answer

Plant ID from Villa Hills KY
April 21, 2013 - Hello I have this plant but I don't know what it is. I want to know if it's edible or what it is. I think it's catnip.
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
April 01, 2009 - I have small shiny red berries growing on a tropical appearing shrub with green and marled yellow leaves. The leaves have widely serrated edges. The berries have a large seed inside and very little fl...
view the full question and answer

Seed pod of Proboscidea louisianica (Deveil's claw) in New Mexico
August 30, 2014 - I found the most amazing seed pods of the devil's claw right here in Albuquerque. I thought it was a wood skeleton of a pterodactyl (flying dinosaur, I believe), but heard it's a devil's claw. Ok...
view the full question and answer

Identifying plant
October 21, 2007 - What plant is usually found growing in low-lying freshwater marshy places with a single, straight-stemmed plant that grows to about one-to-two feet in height. The branches and leaves are sparse with ...
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