Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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
1 rating

Monday - July 18, 2011

From: Covington, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Shrubs
Title: Mystery shrub in Michigan
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I live in the upper peninsula of Michigan and noticed a shrub in the woods that has large clusters of small red, what I would call berries on it. Can you give me some names of wild plants that would match my description. The plants were four or five feet tall and very brushy.

ANSWER:

Your question has been forwarded to the Canadian Green Guru because I live in an ecozone very similar to yours on the Eastern Shore of Georgian Bay.

The shrub that comes to mind first is Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa (Red elderberry) because it is quite common in this area and has clusters of red berries on it right now.  It was blooming back in May/June. The other elderberry native to your area, Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (Common elderberry) is flowering now and will have purple berries later in the season.

If you visit our Native Plant Database and do a Combination Search for Michigan, selecting shrubs and part shade to shade (light conditions in the woods) it will generate a list of shrubs that fit that description.  Each plant on the list is linked to a detailed information page with images.  You can look through those and see if you find your plant.  Not many on that list have "large clusters of small red berries", but a couple of other possibilities are:

Shepherdia canadensis (Russet buffaloberry) This plant should have red berries on it now, but they aren't really clusters.

and

Viburnum lantanoides (Hobblebush)  This plant is not native to Michigan but is to Central Ontario, so it could very well be present in your woods.  The leaves are significantly different from those of the elderberries' and it usually doesn't have berries on it until later in the summer so you should be able to ID it from the images.

Of course you have piqued our curiosity, so please let us know if you can identify it.

 

From the Image Gallery


Red elderberry
Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

Red elderberry
Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Russet buffaloberry
Shepherdia canadensis

Hobblebush
Viburnum lantanoides

Hobblebush
Viburnum lantanoides

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification of Texas bullnettle (Cnidoscolus texanus)
September 15, 2009 - I'm trying to identify a small thorny plant that I found growing on our (previously undeveloped) dry lot in Hutto, Central Texas. It has small white flowers and green thorny bulbs. The leaves and st...
view the full question and answer

Cinnamon scented plant growing along Pennsylvania rivers
August 05, 2013 - I've walked along both the Youghiogheny and Monongahela Rivers around my hometown and I've noticed moments at which time I would smell the strong, sweet aroma of cinnamon. Given the riverside envir...
view the full question and answer

Identifiation of Castela erecta ssp. texana as armagosa
June 27, 2007 - I am reading a document that includes the name Armagosa in a list of plants identified in a south Texas (Maverick Co.) vegetation analysis(shrub/sub-shrub layer). Unfortunately the list of species di...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 09, 2011 - In North Central Texas recommended plants, there are three coneflowers listed: Echinacea angustifolia-Black sampson E. purpurea-Purple coneflower E. purpurea-Eastern purple coneflower Is the Eas...
view the full question and answer

Plant identifcation and wants to know about weeds
September 30, 2007 - My son planted some seeds in pots before he left and I don't know if I am watering weeds/plants??? One plant has green & red (lateral) striped stalks with something on the end that to me from Texas ...
view the full question and answer

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