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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

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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Sunday - March 20, 2016

From: San Francisco , CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification, Vines
Title: Identity of fast growing vine in San Francisco
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Really need to know what kind of vine is growing rapidly in the garden. Can't find out in plant identification: started to grow profusely after rainfall. Grows at rate of 6-8" per day (!). Has ivy-like leaves and numerous tendrils. Tiny white clustered blossoms every 12". I have tried to uproot small ones for propagating and it seems to descend into one long taproot. I want to propagate for fences in the area: lake Merced in San Francisco. Please respond when you can. Dan vojir

ANSWER:

This sounds like Marah fabaceus (California manroot).  Here is more information from Santa Barbara City College, Pacific Bulb Society and from the California Native Plant Society.  It does have large fleshy underground roots, some of them shaped vaguely like a human body.

There are several other species of manroot that occur in California, but Marah fabaceus is the most common one and it does occur in the San Francisco area according to the USDA Plants Database.

The other California species are:

Marah horridus (Sierra manroot) occurs east and south of the San Francisco area.  Here are photos and more information from iNaturalist.

Marah macrocarpus (Cucamonga manroot) occurs in Southern California.  Here are photos and more information from Plants for a Future and from FloraFinder.

Marah oreganus (Coastal manroot) occurs in coastal areas from south of San Francisco and into Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.  See the USDA Plants Database distribution map.  Here are photos and more information from NWWildflowers and Washington Native Plant Society. 

Marah watsonii (Taw manroot) occurs north and east of the San Francisco area.  Here are photos from CalPhotos.Berkeley and photos and more information from AnExaminedLife.

 

From the Image Gallery


California manroot
Marah fabaceus

California manroot
Marah fabaceus

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