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 Plant Identification Questions

Safe distance from foundation for Sycamore from Preston UK
August 24, 2011 - What would be the safe distance to have a sycamore tree near your house so it doesn't affect the foundations?
view the full question and answer

Mystery tree with yellow fruit in MN
November 12, 2012 - There is a tree at my workplace, about 8' tall, with small, pea-sized yellow berries right now (Oct. 2012). The berries are attractive to Cedar Waxwings, and the tree has small leaves that are simple...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 25, 2009 - I found a low-growing plant with thick spoon shaped light green leaves. It was growing in the edged of a lawn, The leaves almost look like they have fine white hairs on them. It is very pretty, but wh...
view the full question and answer

Identity of tree with pumpkin-like fruit in Florida
October 02, 2012 - Hello. I live in a small town called Molino FL. I was walking on the side of our road and found a tree with pumpkin type fruit on the limbs. I have been trying to figure this tree out for about 3 mont...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 25, 2008 - Identification of woodland plant in a rual area ? we have bears britches and another plant simaler, but the leaves are flat and smooth, each leaf is on a seperate stalk and each plant has 3 stalk...
view the full question and answer

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