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 - August 25, 2013

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Found a plant with tiny, white, fragrant flowers on spires by a lake near Fredericksburg, TX. Could you possibly identify it?

ANSWER:

This sounds to me like one of the Spiranthes orchids and I think it would be one of the two described below:

Spiranthes cernua (Nodding lady's tresses) described as "flowers sometimes fragrant" and "leaves present at flowering time."  Here is the USDA Plants Database Texas county distribution map.  It is shown occurring in Mason and Llano counties, but not in Gillespie County.

Spiranthes magnicamporum (Great plains lady's-tresses) is described as "flowers fragrant often with strong odor similar to vanilla" and "leaves usually absent at flowering time."  Here is the Texas County distribution map from the USDA Plants Database.  It is shown occurring in Travis and Comal counties but not in Gillespie County.

The fact that neither orchid is shown as occurring in Gillespie County does not mean it doesn't occur there.   All it means is that it hasn't yet been reported there, or to quote the caption beneath the distribution maps on the USDA Plants Database:

"Our county data are based primarily on the literature, herbarium specimens, and confirmed observations. However, not all populations have been documented, so some gaps in the distribution shown above may not be real. Remember that only native and naturalized populations are mapped!"

You can read the description of the two orchids above as well as other Spriranthes species on pp. 1218-1222 of Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas.

If neither of the plants above is the plant you saw and you have a photo of it, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Nodding ladies' tresses orchid
Spiranthes cernua

Nodding ladies' tresses orchid
Spiranthes cernua

Nodding ladies' tresses orchid
Spiranthes cernua

Great plains lady's-tresses
Spiranthes magnicamporum

Great plains lady's-tresses
Spiranthes magnicamporum

More Plant Identification Questions

Weird-looking rootless plant, perhaps a fungus
August 23, 2008 - While out it my backyard (i.e. the Black Hills of South Dakota), I spotted a weird-looking rootless plant (I think it may be a fungus) growing beneath the Ponderosa Pines. It was the only one in the a...
view the full question and answer

Identification of a plant that appears to be a pink Merremia.
November 14, 2011 - I recently discovered a plant growing locally that was not blooming, but based on the leaves and seed pods I thought it might be Merremia quinquefolia. This week I was able to catch it blooming and th...
view the full question and answer

Wanting to grow a Buckley Oak in Amarillo, TX
January 20, 2016 - I live in Amarillo Texas in the Texas Panhandle. I recently became interested in the Buckley Oak and was wondering if it might grow well here and if so, where I might find one that I could purchase a...
view the full question and answer

Is there a variety of bluebonnet called black gumbo
February 04, 2008 - I live in Grimes County, Texas on the eastern edge of the Blackland Prairie. A few years ago my hillside of Bluebonnet seed was harvested. I was told it was a rare 'black gumbo' variety of bluebon...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of Texas bullnettle (Cnidoscolus texanus)
September 15, 2009 - I'm trying to identify a small thorny plant that I found growing on our (previously undeveloped) dry lot in Hutto, Central Texas. It has small white flowers and green thorny bulbs. The leaves and st...
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