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

Sunday - April 21, 2013

From: England, Other
Region: Other
Topic: Non-Natives, User Comments, Poisonous Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Foxglove safety from England
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, regarding safety of foxgloves grown near edible plants - foxgloves are good companion plants for vegetables, in case of root vegetables they improve their storage life and quality. Foxgloves protect tomatoes and potatetoes from diseases. Of course I would wash anything I eat that grew next to foxgloves under running water in case some pollen reach my food.

ANSWER:

Thank you for your comments. We get a lot of questions concerning whether other plants are safe around their foxgloves. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants will be grown. In view of that and the fact that you are obviously a gardener in England, we believe we are talking about two different genera of plants.

From the  Nova Scotia Museum The Poison Plant Patch discusses the true poisonous plant Digitalis purpurea. This plant is in the Scrophulariaceae family. There are 26 plants in our Native Plant Database with the common name "foxglove," frequently accompanied by the word "false." Sixteen of these are in the Agalinis genus, 7 in the Aureolaria genus and 3 in the Penstemon genus. All of these are also in the Scrophulariaceae family, but there are no members of the Digitalis (foxglove) genus in our Native Plant Database. The genus Penstemon has visual characteristics very similar to Digitalis. These native plants are Penstemon cobaea (Wild foxglove), Penstemon digitalis (Mississippi penstemon) and Penstemon fendleri (Fendler's penstemon). It would seem likely that some early botanist, possibly European, called attention to that similarity in naming Penstemon digitalis (Mississippi penstemon).

We are aware that many non-native and poisonous selections of Digitalis plants are sold in North America. They are beautiful flowers, evoking the traditional English garden, much admired in the United States. If they have only the common name on the labels and no scientific name, it would be very difficult for a lay person to avoid purchasing the plant. There is little Mr. Smarty Plants can do except remind everyone to investigate carefully every plant for sale BEFORE purchasing it.

One final note, your mentions of using Digitalis in growing vegetables is still out of our range of expertise. Most edible plants considered vegetables are either non-native to North America or so extensively hybridized that recognizing the origin and nativity of the plant is difficult to impossible.

 

From the Image Gallery


Prairie penstemon
Penstemon cobaea

Mississippi penstemon
Penstemon digitalis

Fendler's penstemon
Penstemon fendleri

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Toxicity of Fan Tex Ash tree to horses
July 22, 2012 - Is the Fan Tex Ash tree toxic to horses?
view the full question and answer

Plants referred to as Hummingbird plants
August 22, 2008 - We have a a plant that is sometimes called a Hummingbird Plant, sometimes a Firecracker plant. I have also seen the name lonicera sempervirens. Are they poisonous? This is a plant, not a vine. T...
view the full question and answer

White flowering mountain laurel from Driftwood TX
August 23, 2012 - I love white flowering mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) and want to grow one from seeds. I've had a lot of success germinating and growing purple mountain laurel from seeds (or beans), so I DO ...
view the full question and answer

Is the fruit of Bradford Pears toxic to dogs?
November 16, 2010 - I need to know if the little Berries on the Bradford Pear trees are toxic to dogs? My labrador loves eating them. Thank you,
view the full question and answer

Non-toxic evergreen shrub around duck pen
September 10, 2015 - I live in Zone 6a, and am looking for a non-toxic evergreen shrub to use around our fence that pens in our ducks. It doesn't have to be native to our particular state. I have 74 feet of fence on th...
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