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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - September 21, 2014

From: Pahrump, NV
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Plant Identification, Problem Plants
Title: What is the plant called wingspan?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a lot of environmental allergies and saw a positive result for "wingspan" yet I cannot find ANY information online about that particular plant. I was told it's "tumbleweed" by the medical assistant but even then there are many varieties of "tumbleweed." Please reply if you can with the species/varieties of plants that make up the term "wingspan." Thank you, very much for your time.

ANSWER:

I believe you mean Atriplex canescens (Chamiso or Wingscale).  It is known to be a severe allergen.  You can see in the USDA Plants Database Distribution Map that it occurs in all the western half of the US and into Alberta, Canada.  Here is a description from Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers.

Here is information from a couple of allergy websites naming it: 

And here is an article about it from a blogger in Cochise County, Arizona—Ghost32Writer—with a description of his wife's severe allergic reaction to wingscale.

Wingscale isn't a tumbleweed, but the pollen from tumbleweed flowers are also an allergen. The tumbleweed seen in the movies typifying the West is really an invasive plant from Eurasia, Salsola spp. (Russian thistle or wind witch).  Here is another discussion of tumbleweeds from Utah State University's The Great Basin and Invasive Weeds.  According to PubMed and Pollen Library, the pollen of various species of Salsola are allergens.

 

From the Image Gallery


Chamiso
Atriplex canescens

Chamiso
Atriplex canescens

Chamiso
Atriplex canescens

Chamiso
Atriplex canescens

Chamiso
Atriplex canescens

More Plant Identification Questions

Books for plant identification of native California species
March 14, 2008 - When I was going to college, many years ago, there was a field book for plant identification for California native species. I am trying to find that book again or at least a good pocket book on plant...
view the full question and answer

Plant identfication
July 30, 2009 - Hello - Can you help me ID a plant? There are a few growing in grassy areas off roadways in Luna, NM. I will attach photos in photo section. Thanks.
view the full question and answer

What is the weed of Cortez from Shreveport, LA
November 13, 2009 - I am trying to locate the weed of Cortez. I live in northern Louisiana. Can you please let me know if you have ever heard of this? I was told that is a very rare large red flower that blooms in the sp...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
October 01, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Ever since we received this (much needed and wonderful) rain in Austin, my gardens and yard are being swamped with these tiny, green clover-like plants. I've never seen it ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 11, 2011 - This plant will grow 12-15 feet or more in height in the rural areas of Ellis County south of Dallas. In a fractal manner, stems grow out of the stalk and then from the stems. The leaves are green, th...
view the full question and answer

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