Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
1 rating

Wednesday - May 28, 2014

From: Sand Lake, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: General Botany, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Should Rock Harlequin stay green all winter?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have a rock harlequin that came up in a area that had been disturbed. It came up last summer/fall and the foliage survived our tough winter. I can not find anything about this plant staying green all winter. Is this normal? The plant is almost 3 feet tall and has many branches and flowers now. Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

Rock Harlequin, Corydalis sempervirens, is listed in all references as a biennial and in many refereces as a sometimes annual.  Some plants of this species that get an early start in the spring may complete their life cycle (seed germination, vegetative growth, flowering, fruiting and death) in one calendar year.  Otherwise, they will overwinter in the vegetative growth stage the first year and complete their life cycles in the following year.

Interestingly, you have to look no farther than this species' botanical name to get an idea of it overwintering characteristics.  The specific epithet, sempervirens, is taken from two Latin words meaning "always green."  A number of evergreen plant species have sempervirens as their specific epithet.

Just as you described your plant's habitat, this species is commonly found in disturbed areas.  It is especially common in areas of recent forest fires.

Your plant is likely to flower and fruit through the summer and into fall and will die at the end of this year's growing season, but not before replenishing the soil seed bank around it with large numbers of its progeny.  When conditions are right again -- next spring or in years to come -- some of this year's seed crop will germinate and begin the life cycle anew.

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Information on edible tubers of hog potato from Austin
November 10, 2011 - I inquired a while back about hog potato or Hoffmannseggia glauca. You gave me some information on the plant but no information on when the plant produces the edible tubers. Also how long does it take...
view the full question and answer

Mexican sage bushes in Mokena IL
July 12, 2010 - I have two Mexican sage bushes; can they be planted in Illinois and survive the winter?
view the full question and answer

Identity of a yellow-flowered wildflower with prickly burs
May 20, 2013 - Hi there. We have seen a wildflower, probably invasive, that is at least in Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties. We have tried to identify it without success, The structure of the plant is remark...
view the full question and answer

What plants grow well in Athens, TX?
January 18, 2011 - Athens, Texas, we have very sandy soil mixed with clay, what plants grow well here?
view the full question and answer

Different kinds of plants living in subarctic areas
March 10, 2008 - What are the different kinds of plants live in the subarctic areas?
view the full question and answer

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