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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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Monday - September 23, 2013

From: Spicewood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: New thorn/bush tree in Central Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

In Central Texas, over the last 5 years we have seen a new variety of thorn bush appear. It has very long thorns much like mesquite tree but thorns are every inch or so along the branches. The tree is like a bush but will grow 20 or more feet high. The color of the tree is almost a blue green.

ANSWER:

My best guess from your description is Zanthoxylum hirsutum (Texas hercules' club).  Here are photos and more information from Archive of Central Texas Plants from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Texas.  Crushed leaves give off an odor that smells like oranges or other citrus fruits.  If you chew one of the leaves (the young leaves, in particular), you will notice that your tongue begins to feel numb.  Native Americans used the leaves to treat toothache; thus, its common names of Tickle-tongue and Toothache tree.

Other possibilities are:

Ziziphus obtusifolia (Lotebush)  Here are photos and more information from Texas A&M Horticulture and Virginia Tech University.

Castela erecta (Goatbush)  Here is a description from the US Forest Service and here are photos and more information from Texas A&M Horticulture and photos from Flora of Dolan Falls Preserve in Val Verde County, Texas.

Sideroxylon lanuginosum (Gum bumelia)  Here are photos and more information from the Archive of Central Texas Plants from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Texas.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas hercules' club
Zanthoxylum hirsutum

Lotebush
Ziziphus obtusifolia

Gum bumelia
Sideroxylon lanuginosum

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