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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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Saturday - July 24, 2010

From: Berkley, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I was wondering if you could help me identify a plant in the carrot family that has invaded a portion of my property that I fear may be toxic. It looks most like the water hemlock plant (leaf-wise, not quite as "ferny" as most of the other plants I've seen in that family, including hemlock plant). Its about 4-5 feet high. Two things that appear to be different though is that there are single bluish black huckleberry-like berries on the ends of each of the starbursts (after flowering) and also the roots have long runners that spawn other plants. Most of the pictures on the web I've seen show brown seeds, not berries. Matter of fact I cant find one picture of a berry anywhere that is a member of the carrot family. I also don't see any hollow chambers in the root, and the 1st several inches of stem above the ground are brown and "hairy" . Almost thorny. It seems to have characteristics of both the hemlock and water hemlock but not all of each. It does have some pinkish purple striations on the stems of most of the plants (but not all). I did pull up quite a bit but noticed a lot more in another part of the property so want to make sure it's not one of the toxic members of that family. I'm hoping the berries and the running roots may help identify which one it is. Thanks.

ANSWER:

The thing that will help the most in the identification of the plant is to send us photos showing all the various traits you have mentioned—the entire plant, closeup photos of leaves, of berries, and of the stem. Please send photos that are in good focus and of high resolution.  Please read the instructions for submitting the photos on Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page.
 

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