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

Will Butterfly Plant Survive in Mansfield, Texas
January 06, 2012 - I have a butterfly plant that was very successful (about 4 feet tall) right up until the cold snap three weeks ago. I've read they have a tap root, so I'm hoping it will come back next spring. Mea...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification--vine with spiny pods in California
July 05, 2010 - I came across a vine while hiking in Orange County, CA. It didn't have flowers on it but has 3 or 4 inch spiny pods. What is it? The vine itself looks similar to a Morning Glory vine.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 19, 2011 - I am trying to identify a flowering plant I saw today in Houston. Its leaves are green and it produces beautiful flowers with 4 petals that kind of remind me of a pinwheel. The petals are about 2 inch...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
October 10, 2009 - Please try to identify a shrub growing beside a country road in Van Zandt Co this month. It had tiny, slender cone shaped fruit or "flowers" along the branches. The leaves are dark green, about 1 i...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
April 16, 2009 - I have a vine in my flowerbed that has three leaves and thorns and it looks like poison ivy. How can I tell if it is?
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