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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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Monday - September 03, 2012

From: Eminence, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Identity of plant in Kentucky with fuzzy grayish-green leaves
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I would like to know about a plant that I do not know what it is. I had this plant just come up in my flowerbed, that looked like a tobacco plant but the leaves looked like a lambs ear plant. It was grayish green color with fuzz on the leaves. It grew tall with flowers on top. When they died off I pull them up and got a bad itchy red bumpy rash. I had to go to the doctor twice to get rid of it. It has come up since and if I touch it I get the rash back. Would you have any idea what this is, someone told me it was Indian tobacco? Thanks Lisa Willhite

ANSWER:

This sounds to me like Verbascum thapsus (mullein).  It is a native of Europe and Asia but the distribution map from the USDA shows it appearing all over North America.  The webpage for Plants for a Future and the Botanical Dermatology Database say that the hairs from the leaves can be an irritant.  It is considered a noxious weed in Hawaii and Colorado and the Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group has it on their Least Wanted list.

If this isn't the plant you found in your garden, you could take photos and then visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.

 

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