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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - October 05, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Plant Identification
Title: Where do snake herb and skeleton-leaf goldeneye get their names?
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Where does snake herb, and skeleton leaf goldeneye get their names from? Thank you.


For Viguiera stenoloba (Resinbush or Skeleton-leaf goldeneye) the commom name would reflect the fact that it has very narrow leaves (sort of skeleton-like) compared to other members of the Genus Viguiera (goldeneyes) such as Viguiera cordifolia (Heartleaf goldeneye) and Viguiera dentata (Sunflower goldeneye) that have broader leaves. Stenoloba, the species designation, means narrow-lobed.

A meaning for the common name, snake herb, Dyschoriste crenulata (Wavyleaf snakeherb), Dyschoriste oblongifolia (Oblongleaf snakeherb)Dyschoriste linearis (Snake herb) and Dyschoriste schiedeana var. decumbens (Spreading snakeherb) was not so easy to find.  However, a brief mention of the reason for the name of snake herb occurs in the book Frontier Naturalist: Jean Louis Berlandier and the Exploration of Northern Mexico and Texas on page 103.  It says that the Commanches and the Lipan Apaches chewed the root of a plant called snake herb and made a poultice of the herb-and-saliva that they put on the wound from snake bites.  We don't know if this was a species in the Genus Dyschoristes, however.  There are also plants with these similar common names—common names including "snake":  Sanicula canadensis (Canadian blacksnakeroot), Ageratina aromatica var. aromatica (Lesser snakeroot), and  Eryngium aquaticum (Rattlesnake-master) to name just a few. So, even though we can't be completely sure that the plant named in the book above is the same snake herb that is in the Genus Dyschoristes, this is one possible explanation.


From the Image Gallery

Skeleton-leaf goldeneye
Viguiera stenoloba

Skeleton-leaf goldeneye
Viguiera stenoloba

Heartleaf goldeneye
Viguiera cordifolia

Heartleaf goldeneye
Viguiera cordifolia

Plateau goldeneye
Viguiera dentata

Plateau goldeneye
Viguiera dentata

Wavyleaf snakeherb
Dyschoriste crenulata

Oblongleaf snakeherb
Dyschoriste oblongifolia

Snake herb
Dyschoriste linearis

Spreading snakeherb
Dyschoriste schiedeana var. decumbens

More General Botany Questions

Question about booklet, Native and Adapted Landscape Plants
June 24, 2009 - In the booklet"Native and Adapted Landscape Plants for Central Texas", the light requirements for some plants are written in a way that I do not understand. Is Sun/Part Shade different from Part Sha...
view the full question and answer

Are Chickasaw plums evergreen?
August 13, 2014 - Are Chickasaw Plums evergreens? I've been very interested in planting a few but some websites say they are evergreens while others say the opposite. Furthermore, would I have to plant a male and fema...
view the full question and answer

Albinism in plants.
May 16, 2010 - Greetings, I was wondering what you know of albinism in plants? I know I've found a few articles about it online. I discovered my only albino plant last summer. It was an albino dogbane plant grow...
view the full question and answer

How many plant species are in Maryland
October 31, 2008 - About how many plant species are there in Maryland?
view the full question and answer

Which one is huajillo and which one is guajillo?
November 19, 2013 - Recently I attended a field trip to the Leonard Garden at the Kleberg Institute in Kingsville. I took a picture of a tree that was referred to as Tenaza or huajillo. Later I took another photo of a ...
view the full question and answer

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