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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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Friday - June 11, 2010

From: Birmigham, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr Smarty Pants.I hope you can help to save my sanity! I am a true believer in using native plantings, having a yard that is 99% native. I hope that fact provides me a little extra credit toward getting this probably non-native id question answered.for a neighbor who has asked me to help. She has a patch of about 13 of these plants growing in moist soil next to her foundation. We live in Birmingham, AL. Each plant is about 3-5 foot tall with a single stem arising from the ground. The leaves are huge (about 10 inches long and 8 inches wide)heart-shaped and toothed. Each has a solitary, umbrel shaped, deep purple flower on top. I picked a leaf to bring it in for closer inspection and it smells awful, like skunk cabbage. The leaves are hairy with the most obvious (pointy) hairs on the underside veins. The leaves are opposite one another along the main stem of the plant. The stem is greenish-purple. There are 2 small buds just opposite to where each leaf emerges from the main stem. The purple coloring runs into the leaf stems. Each leaf stem being about 4 inches long. The purple color also runs up into into the first 30% or so of the veins on the top of each leaf. Three main veins come out of the leaf stem into the leaf proper. The center vein goes all the way to the pointed tip of the heart-shaped leaf. The other 2 veins goes off to each side but do not terminate on the edge. There are additional veins running off the central middle vein. Any plant come to mind?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants applauds your dedication to native plants and your kindness towards your neighbor; but, unfortunately, that still doesn't make us experts in identifying non-native plants.  Our expertise is in plants native to North American and your description, although very detailed, doesn't bring any plant to mind.  I suggest that you take photographs of the plant in question and submit them to the UBC Botanical Garden's Plant Identification Forum.  They do an excellent job with non-native plants.

 

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