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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 02, 2016

From: INDIO, CA
Region: California
Topic: Pruning, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: Should flower stems of Texas mountain laurel be removed after they bloom?
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Should I trim off the old flower stems from this years bloom on a Texas Mountain Laurel?

ANSWER:

Here is how a similar question to Mr. Smarty Plants was answered:

We would recommend removing the spent flower stems from Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) when the pods first begin to appear. If you follow the plant link above, you will note this sentence in the first paragraph on our webpage on the plant:

"The brilliant, lacquer red seeds were valued by indigenous people for ornament and ceremonial use; they contain the highly poisonous alkaloid cytisine (or sophorine), a substance related to nicotine and widely cited as a narcotic and hallucinogen."

Since the seeds are very attractive, there is always the chance of a child, or perhaps a pet, finding one and taking a taste. 

Removing the forming seed pods also saves the energy that the plant would otherwise devote to the process of seed pod maturation.  The saved energy will be available for slightly increased vegetative growth.

 

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