En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
3 ratings

Thursday - October 03, 2013

From: Cosby, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Shrubs
Title: Plant identification of thorny shrub in Tennessee
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I have a mid to dark green thorny type bush growing on my land in Cosby, Tennessee. I am originaly from NJ and I have never seen it before. The stalk is varigated and the thorns are plentiful and very large. Thank you in advance for your help.


This sound a bit like Poncirus trifoliata (Trifoliate orange), an Asian native that is considered invasive.  It does have formidable long thorns on it.

There are several hawthorns that are native to Tennessee.  Here are four of them:

Crataegus flava (Summer hawthorn)  Here are photos and more information from Plants for a Future.

Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington hawthorn)

Crataegus spathulata (Littlehip hawthorn)

Crataegus crus-galli (Cockspur hawthorn)

Here is a list of all 39 of the Crataegus species on our database.  You can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to see the 14 that grow in Tennessee.

Ribes cynosbati (Eastern prickly gooseberry)

Smilax rotundifolia (Roundleaf greenbrier)  Here are photos from Vanderbilt University.

Smilax tamnoides (Bristly greenbrier)  Here are photos from DiscoverLife.org.

Zanthoxylum americanum (Common pricklyash)  Here are more photos from Iowa State University.

Aralia spinosa (Devil's walkingstick)

Maclura pomifera (Osage orange)

There are several species of roses (Rosa sp.) and blackberrie/raspberries (Rubus sp.)

If none of these appears to be the thorny shrub that you have seen, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.


From the Image Gallery

Washington hawthorn
Crataegus phaenopyrum

Littlehip hawthorn
Crataegus spathulata

Eastern prickly gooseberry
Ribes cynosbati

Common pricklyash
Zanthoxylum americanum

Devil's walking stick
Aralia spinosa

Cockspur hawthorn
Crataegus crus-galli

Osage orange
Maclura pomifera

More Shrubs Questions

Problems with Eves necklacepods (Styphnolobium affine)
March 25, 2008 - Mr. S-P, I urgently need your advice regarding two Eve's necklacepods that appear to be dying. They are in two completely different areas of my yard. One began leafing out and then the leaves sh...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on bio-security
June 11, 2005 - Hello, My friend and I are summer interns at the Bryan Mound Strategic Petroleum Reserve Site in Freeport, Texas. Our jobs as the interns is to find a plant that is friendly to the animals around our...
view the full question and answer

Need to know about little brown spots on Texas Mountain Laurel
May 11, 2015 - I have little brown spots on my Texas Mountain Laurel leaves. I can email you a picture if needed. What could it be and how can I help my little laurels work thru these spots? The texas mountain ...
view the full question and answer

Exotic plant/shrubs for Marietta, GA.
April 01, 2010 - Hi. I live in Marietta GA. and i am looking to add some curb appeal to my front lawn (around the border of the house). I would like evergreen plants and shrubs. I love the tropical/exotic look. do you...
view the full question and answer

Identification of shrub from Kuala Lumpur
April 24, 2011 - I am seeing too much of shrubs used for landscaping that looks like dill, its stems are pretty woody and its leaves looks and smells like dill, are they the same? Can I consume this shrub that looks l...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center