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

Tuesday - December 29, 2009

From: Cherry Hill , NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Mystery plant in New Jersey
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We are trying to find the name of a shrub, growing in Southern New Jersey. with red berries that grow in a group much like lilac or oak leaf hydrangea. It is "feathery", not dense. A neighbor dug up some (it seems to spread quickly) and gave it to me years ago. She called it Mahonia but I don't think that's right. Any ideas?

ANSWER:

In order to make a positive ID we would need a photo of the plant; if you could send one that would be ideal.  Otherwise, when faced with an id question like this one the description gives us enough clues that we can make some guesses and provide links to our Native Plant Information Network so that you can zero in on the plant yourself.

However, in this case, you haven't provided enough clues.  I think you are right that it is not Mahonia as that plant is quite coarse in texture with leathery, prickly holly-like leaves and the berries are definitely not in a cone-shaped cluster.  There is no Mahonia native to New Jersey but there are a couple that are available in the nursery trade in your area: Mahonia repens (creeping barberry)and Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry) Both of these are native to the west and have purple berries resembling grapes.

As I gloss through the database, searching for plants that are native to New Jersey, the only one I come across that has red berries borne in that manner is the Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa (red elderberry).  That guess is a real stab in the dark and I would be amazed if that is your mystery plant.

Have a look through the NJ plants and if you don't find it but can provide a photo and more information about the plant, we'd be happy to give it another try. Instructions for submitting photos are on the Mr. Smarty Plants plant identification page.


Mahonia repens

Mahonia aquifolium

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Difference between Convallaria majalis and Convallaria majuscula
May 17, 2012 - How do you tell the difference in the native convallaria from the European species?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification, possibly Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed)
September 07, 2010 - What wild growing plant has dark purple berries with a pinkish stem? The purple berries grow on their own stem and not in among the leaves, the leaves are green.
view the full question and answer

Identity of rubbery-looking tree with long green thorns
March 21, 2012 - I am trying to identify a tree that has a green rubbery look with long, sharp, green thorns. This tree is on my property in Conroe, TX and the soil type is Gladwater clay frequently flooded.
view the full question and answer

Can you identify a funny looking bulb that I bought at the grocery store? Probably not..
May 06, 2010 - I looked through your data base and did not find what I was looking for. I bought this funny looking bulb at a grocery store. It looked like a giant shriveled spider when i bought them. Due to lack of...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of tree in North Carolina
September 07, 2011 - I live in North Carolina have found a tree on our property that has thorny branches and round fruit (perfectly round) with a fuzzy outer layer that starts out green but then turns yellow. The inside r...
view the full question and answer

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