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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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Saturday - September 06, 2014

From: Lockhart, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Edible Plants, Shrubs
Title: Red berries growing along county road in Caldwell County, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, first I would like to thank you for your time. I thank it's great that you guys and girls answer questions (I'm sure y'all are busy). That being said I will get to the question. On the sides of our gravel county roads down here in Lockhart in Caldwell County there are bushes that have little red berries. Now my grandmother used to collect them and make a jam with them, at least I think that they are the same bush/briar that she used to get them. From this summer while walking down the road with my kids collecting what we call dewberries. I tried one but did not swallow it. It tasted sweet, slightly tart with no bitterness at all. I could provide pictures if need be, just trying to Id this native plant and also see if it is indeed edible thanks ..p.s. I did look in archives and found nothing on this. Also, just so you know, I always tell the kids never to eat an unknown plant or berry. Thanks again.

ANSWER:

From your description this sounds like it could be Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita).  My mother made jelly from them and it was delicious and the berries themselves are quite tasty on their own. When they are very ripe they are sweet with a little tartness.  It is a bit of a challenge to pick them, however, because of their very prickly, holly-like leaves.  Here are instructions from WildEdibleTexas on how to harvest the berries and make jelly from them.  Hammer on Rye also has instructions on harvesting and making jelly from the Agarita berries.

We have a plant list for Lockhart State Park Nature Trail Native Plant Species on our Special Collections page that shows Agarita occurring there.  There are also 48 other species listed for you to look through just in case this isn't the plant your mother used to make jelly.

 

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