Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

Friday - August 07, 2015

From: Taylor, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Poisonous Plants
Title: Plant Identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in southeastern Michigan. I found a plant growing in the backyard that caught my eye. I chalked it off as a weed, but it's unique. It is shaped like a bushing type plant, has red stem, each cluster has three big leaves and a purple tubular flower. With 2 leaves surrounding it. The leaves are shaped oddly, like bear claw even. As it branches out theres little grooves with a cactus growth in it. The cactus growth is green. I pulled off the largest one and sliced it open and theres like a hundred or more seeds. Smells sweet. Please help identify it. Plant is currently 24-36" tall and 20" wide.

ANSWER:

This sounds to me like Datura stramonium (Thornapple or Jimsonweed) and it is, to most people's thinking, a weed—but a rather interesting one.  Its nativity is in question (perhaps Central of South America or possibly Asia), but it has spread worldwide.  All parts of it are considered poisonous, even the nectar of the blossoms (see Cornell University–Plants Poisonous to Livestock, North Carolina State University Poisonous Plants and Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System), but it also has been used as an herbal treatment for various ailments that you can read about on Botanical.com.  Here are photos and more information from Missouri Plants, Delaware Wildflowers and University of Massachusetts Extension.  If you have grazing animals (e.g., sheep, horses, cattle) or small children or pets that like to sample plants, you might consider removing it or, at the very least, being vigilant.

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Eliminating non-native grasses growiing in non-native alfalfa in Clint, TX
April 16, 2011 - I have six acres of alfalfa in Clint, Tx which was planted three years ago. After taking it to Jaime Iglesias PhD, CEA-Agriculture Texas Agrilife Extension El Paso County; he responded: Mr. Zuniga: ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for pots outdoors in winter in Virginia
October 02, 2008 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I was wondering what plants would be best to grow outdoors, in pots, in Virginia, in the winter? This is a lot of restrictions but we just need 2-3 plants for our office pati...
view the full question and answer

Can I move my Dwarf Orange tree from California to Florida?
April 12, 2012 - I am moving from California to Florida and have a small dwarf orange tree. Can I bring it with me to Florida? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Flying insects eating leaves of non-native Brugmansia in Aline CA
October 17, 2013 - I have an Angel Trumpet tree. We live in Aline, California 30 miles east of San Diego. Little yellow and black flying bugs eat the leaves. Do you have a remedy for this problem.
view the full question and answer

Non-native fig problems in Austin, TX.
July 02, 2014 - We have a large fig tree in our yard. It has been healthy since we bought the house in 2006. But in the last week or so, the leaves have turned yellow and have wilted. It is full of fruit. I'm afraid...
view the full question and answer

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