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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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Wednesday - November 25, 2015

From: Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Website with map showing occurence of species
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Hello and thank you so much for this amazing site and all the information you provide. Recently after reading about some really neat species on here I ended up surfing the net for pictures and somehow on a website that somehow let me enter in the name of a flower and it populated a little map of the United States with little dots wherever the plant grew naturally. I'm hoping you may know where that was. I had been looking at moo flowers and found them in Texas but also a tiny dot in Colorado and can't remember where. It was a nonprofit and maybe even government service site but not knowing popular organization names I don't even know where to begin to find another interactive map like that. Could you possibly help me? I'd be so grateful!! Thank you!!


The USDA Plants Database has maps showing the location of plants reported to occur in North America.  For most species they also show records by counties.  Their database covers plants native to North America and plants that have been introduced to North America with a code telling whether each plant is native or introduced.  This is the source that I use most often to find out whether a plant is native to North America and where it occurs.

For your flower of interest, I'm supposing you mean "moon" flower.  The problem with common names is that they may be associated with several different plants, often plants that are not closely related.  So, since there are several possibilities for moon flowers or moonflowers, I'm not sure whether you mean: is another place where you will find location maps.  Enter the species name (e.g., Ipomoea alba) in the Search slot to find their page for a particular plant. (SEINet) has maps.  Enter the species name (e.g., Ipomoea alba) in the Taxon Search slot to find their page for a particular plant.

To find any of these maps you will need the scientific name of the plant since, as you may have noticed, the common name given for Ipomoea alba varies with the different databases.  The scientific name will (usually) remain the same.  If it doesn't, the synonyms are usually cross-referenced on the databases.  To find the scientific names you can Google the common name and look at the different sites to find its scientific name.

On our Native Plant Database when you reach the description page for each species, if you scroll to near the bottom of the page to the section called ADDITIONAL RESOURCES and click on the link to USDA Plants, you will be taken to their page for the species with the distribution map.  Try this for Ipomoea alba (Tropical white morning-glory).


From the Image Gallery

Ipomoea alba

Datura wrightii

Dwarf mentzelia
Mentzelia pumila

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