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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 - July 21, 2013

From: Fresno, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of a mint-like plant in California
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

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 (so far). The larger leaves are about two inches in diameter. It does not look like cannabis or cinquefoil (not hairy at all), but I suppose it could be. There is minimal toothiness on only some of the leaflets. It's very confusing because it smells exactly like a nice mint (not spearmint), but I cannot find any members of the mint family with leaves like this.

ANSWER:

This does sound like a member of the Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family).  I can't begin to come up with an identity from your description alone and it is probably going to be difficult to identify for anyone seeing it or a photo of it without flowers blooming.  You can take a look through our Native Plant Database and a search in the Mint Family.  On the Native Plant Database page in the green "Search native plant database:" box, scroll through the list beside Family: and select "Lamiaceae (Mint Family).  Clicking on "go" will give you a list of 178 native North American members of the mint family in our database.   You can then use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to choose "California" from the Select State or Province slot to reduce the size of the list to 54 species.  Most of the species on the list have photos on the species page.   You can look through these to see if any look like your plant.

If your plant is not a North American native, it will not be in our Native Plant Database.  Whether it is native or not, you can visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.  You should wait for flowers to appear before you photograph it to submit for identification.  You should submit a photo of the whole plant, closeup photos of leaves and of flowers and a photo of how the leaves are arranged on the plant. 

 

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