Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
31 ratings

Friday - January 09, 2009

From: Toronto, ON
Region: Canada
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant with no leaves, flexible and stores water
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Do you now a plant that has no leaves but stores a lot of water and is very flexible? Maybe a type of vine? Thank you!

ANSWER:

You don't say whether you have, or saw, such a plant and are trying to identify it; or, perhaps you want to grow such a plant; or, you are just curious if such a plant exists.  Whatever the reason for your question, here is what I can tell you about plants, both native and non-native to North America, that fit at least part of your description:

The first plants that come to mind that store a lot of water and have no leaves are the cacti (for example., Carnegiea gigantea (saguaro) or Opuntia sp.), but I certainly wouldn't call them particularly flexible.  There are a couple of Opuntias that grow in Ontario, Opuntia humifusa (devil's-tongue) and Opuntia fragilis (brittle pricklypear). Some other cacti that store water are species in the genera Selenicereus and Hylocereus from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and tropical South America.  Some of these are vine-like (for example, S. urbanianus and H. undatus) and somewhat more flexible than the cacti named above.

The Cuscuta (Dodder) are parasitic vines that have very reduced leaves that certainly store some water in their stems, but the stems are relatively thin so there won't be much water stored there.  There are several species of Cuscuta that occur in Ontario, some native and some not.

Succulents store water in their stems and leaves and there are succulent vines that lack leaves in the Ceropegias, a genus in the Family Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family) that are found mainly in tropical Africa, India, the Middle East and Asia.  Many of the species of the genus are vines and several lack leaves (for example, C. devecchii from Somalia, C. arabica from Saudi Arabia and  C. ampliata from South Africa).

If you have such a plant or a photo of it, you can submit your photo to us and we will do our best to identify it.  Please visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page to read instructions on submitted photos for identification.


Carnegiea gigantea

Opuntia humifusa

Cuscuta polygonorum

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Photographing and Identifying trees of Long Island
June 01, 2013 - After being in a car accident I got into photography as sports are a distant memory due to my injuries. As a new hobby I thought of taking pictures of trees and then finding out their species name. ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 01, 2009 - I'm trying to identify a bush/shrub that is approx. 6 ft. with leaves like an azalea but has orange hot air balloon shaped balls that turn to small orange flowers. Blooming now in May. Dies back ea...
view the full question and answer

Identification of fragrant, white-flowered bush in Arizona
April 14, 2013 - I'd like to identify a flowering bush which has white sweet-smelling flowers. It is growing in the Coconino National Forest in the area near the Airport vortex/Airport mesa in Sedona, Arizona. ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of tall dry, stalk plant in Central Texas
January 19, 2011 - I'm trying to identify a plant from my childhood in Central Texas, as I'd like to evaluate its potential as a biofuel crop. It is a stalk-plant, growing quite tall, 7-8' on average, with knobbed...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
August 07, 2014 - there is a plant in our yard...I believe it to be in the seed phase..it has 3 or 5 pointed leaves topped with a green fuzzy ball then another set of leaves and a green fuzzy ball..this is continued a...
view the full question and answer

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