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

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

Identification of shrub/small tree with small purple fruit
July 31, 2013 - Hi! I have a tree/bush that has come up on its own in the backyard. This year it set what looks like small purple plums. Is there any chance that they might be poisonous?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
May 07, 2008 - I have a green bush that us come up in the old garden spot it has littl green balls all over it with seeds like in them, what could it be? Thanks
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
April 04, 2009 - I found a purple berry-like plant in my back yard. It has no leaves, and it is about 5 or 6 inches tall. Do you know what it is called?
view the full question and answer

Need to identify a strange plant in my flowerbed
March 05, 2010 - I have a strange plant that I've called a weed in my flowerbed. It doesn't have many leaves but it has round white almost bulbs at the surface of the dirt. The "bulbs" look almost like a small oni...
view the full question and answer

Who was Salvia clevelandii named for?
May 12, 2009 - Where does the term "clevelandii (as in the Salvia I recently saw for the first time) originate?
view the full question and answer

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