Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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 20, 2013

From: Leander, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Identity of a yellow-flowered wildflower with prickly burs
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi there. We have seen a wildflower, probably invasive, that is at least in Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties. We have tried to identify it without success, The structure of the plant is remarkably similar to Malta Starthistle, but the yellow flower is daisy-like, not brushy like a thistle. The plant has horrific little burs with spikes, again like Malta Starthistle, but with shorter spikes. They are a serious enemy to barefoot people. They seem to like disturbed areas along roadsides in full sun. I never saw them five years ago when I bought my land north of Jonestown, and now they are everywhere. Any help would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

For purposes of comparison, here is a link to Centaurea melitensis (Malta star-thistle), a native of Africa and Europe.

Here are a couple of possibilities for the plant you are seeing:

Solanum rostratum (Buffalobur nightshade) is a Central Texas native.  It has spines on its stems and spiny burs as seed cases.

Tribulus terrestris (Puncturevine) is native to southern Europe, southern Asia, Africa and Australia.  The spines are short and stout and can puncture bicycle tires! Here are photos and more information from Texas Invasives and University of California Integrated Pest Management.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Buffalobur nightshade
Solanum rostratum

Buffalobur nightshade
Solanum rostratum

Buffalobur nightshade
Solanum rostratum

Buffalobur nightshade
Solanum rostratum

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
August 13, 2008 - Every spring I see these very unique white flowers that grow along the edge of wooded areas. I live in upstate NY. These flowers have some reddish tint to the stem and leaves. The blooms are all si...
view the full question and answer

Identification of a mint-like plant in California
July 21, 2013 - I found a plant growing near my apricot (in Fresno, California). It has a square stem which becomes more rounded toward the base. The leaves are smooth, opposite, and they have three to five leaflets ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of bush with red berries
March 11, 2013 - bush? grows along fence lines in rural areas; sheds foliage in fall; berries appear; colors vary from red to orange, depending on soil?
view the full question and answer

Identification of alien-looking plant
June 06, 2013 - I have a plant that grows 4-5 feet tall, it has pretty "alien looking" flowers with "pods" under flower, and marijuana looking leaves and smell. My neighbor gave me a start last year, and it has ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
April 16, 2009 - There is a plant growing on the side of the road near my home. The stalk of it is thistle like with many prickles. The flower on it is white and has 6 petals.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.