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?

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
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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - October 15, 2013

From: Milford, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Native alternative to tulips from Milford MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What could be a good alternative to tulips? I have not seen a native plant quite like a tulip (except a tulip tree). A good alternative should bloom in April or May and have showy flowers. I searched the database and the best result was the Canadian anemone.

ANSWER:

Well, now, see, that's the thing about the evolution of plants. They evolve in a certain environment in which they are able to flourish in the conditions that prevail there. The same plant is very unlikely to evolve in another environment that is quite different. Because we are really not up to typing all this stuff, we are going to copy a paragraph about the tulip plant from Wikipedia:

"The tulip is a perennial, bulbous plant with showy flowers in the genus Tulipa, of which around 75 wild species are currently accepted  and which belongs to the family Liliaceae. The genus's native range extends west to the Iberian Peninsula, through North Africa to Greece, the Balkans, Turkey, throughout the Levant (Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan) and Iran, North to the Ukraine, southern Siberia and Mongolia, and east to the Northwest of China. The tulip's centre of diversity is in the Pamir, Hindu Kush, and Tien Shan mountains. It is a typical element of steppe and winter-rain Mediterranean vegetation. A number of species and many hybrid cultivars are grown in gardens, as potted plants, or to be displayed as fresh-cut flowers. Tulip cultivars have usually several species in their direct background, but most have been derived from Tulipa suaveolens, often erroneously listed as Tulipa schrenkii. Tulipa gesneriana is in itself an early hybrid of complex origin and is not the same taxon as was described by Conrad Gesner in the 16th century. "

That does not sound a whole lot like Oakland Co, in the southeastern portion of Michigan, does it? Just so you will know we are trying, we are going to search our Native Plant Database for members of the family Liliaceae native to  Michigan. There are 305 members of this family native to North America and 53 native to Michigan. So, we narrowed it down a little more, and added your stipulation for blooming in April and May, which got us to a more manageable 34. We looked at every single webpage of the plants on that list and found only 5 plants that came even close, and they mostly looked like small upside down tulips. These are:

Polygonatum biflorum (Smooth solomon's seal)

Prosartes trachycarpa (Roughfruit fairybells)

Trillium grandiflorum (Large-flower wakerobin)

Trillium viride (Wood wakerobin)

Uvularia sessilifolia (Spreading bellwort)

So, how about this? Go to our Native Plant Database, scroll down to the Combination Search, select on Michigan, then "herb" (herbaceous  blooming plants) under Habit, select the amount of sunlight you have under Light Requirements and April and May in blooming time. See if there is something in the resulting list that, while not looking like a tulip, looks like a plant that would be happy in your garden.

 

From the Image Gallery


Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Roughfruit fairybells
Prosartes trachycarpa

White wake-robin
Trillium grandiflorum

Wood trillium
Trillium viride

Spreading bellwort
Uvularia sessilifolia

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Hummingbird Attracting Plants for Shade in Smithville, TX
March 28, 2012 - I want hummingbird plants for shade.
view the full question and answer

Plant ID from Woodcreek TX
January 27, 2012 - I would like to attach a photo of a weed in my lawn and have you identify it. How do I send a photo? I have been told it may be ground ivy. Please tell me how to kill it without damaging the lawn.
view the full question and answer

Shade ground cover under honeysuckle from Wichita KS
February 21, 2012 - Hi! I know this is a bit odd, but I am trying to find a nontoxic, good ground covering plant that can live in the shade while competing with the roots of a whole bunch of honeysuckle. I have a few ide...
view the full question and answer

Is horseherb toxic to chickens in Austin, TX?
November 05, 2012 - My yard is almost completely horseherb (straggler daisy, calyptocarpus vialis) and I am hoping you can tell me if this is safe for chickens to eat? As common as it is here, there is nothing I could fi...
view the full question and answer

Bare spot in Prairie Phlox in Austin
February 25, 2009 - I have Prairie Phlox in my garden that I have had for about 4 to 6 years. I got the original plant from the NPSOT at their booth one year at the Wildflower center. It is really lovely in the spring wh...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center