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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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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!

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Wednesday - March 25, 2015

From: Huntington Beach , CA
Region: California
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Trees
Title: Identification of mystery tree in Huntington Beach, CA
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Have a "tree" that has grown from about 18" tall to about 10' tall in a little over a years time. It has a central trunk that is about 3/4" in diameter at it's largest. It has short thin branches with "leaves" that are thin and wispy like dill foliage. It occasionally blooms wth one or two light purple flowers at the very top of the plant. The bloom has 5 or six petals with a yellow center. We live in Huntington Beach California and the plant just sprouted spontaneously. We have it in a 4-5 gallon container and it's thriving. We would like help in identification since no one who has seen it has any idea what it might be. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Probably your mystery tree is an escaped cultivar of a non-native plant, but I will suggest a couple of possibilities—one a native tree and the other a non-native invasive tree:

Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) is native shown to occur in 3 counties adjacent to Orange County—San Diego, San Bernadino and Riverside on the USDA Plants database distribution map.

There are non-native invasive species of tamarisk that somewhat fit your description. One of these is Tamarix chinensis (Salt cedar, tamarisk).   You can see photos of other species of tamarisk from Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers.  All species of tamarisk are considered invasive.  They do occur in Orange County according to the distribution map of the USDA Plants Database.

If neither of these is your tree, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.   Please be sure to read at the end of the page the "Important Notes..." about submitting photographs.

 

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