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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - May 13, 2013

From: Boise, ID
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of artichoke-like plant in Idaho
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

There is a plant/weed growing in the front yard, my mom says it is a flower I say a weed. It looks a lot like an open artichoke and is the same size. It is green except on the tips where it is deep purple. I have searched high and low and can't figure out what it is. Please help! Thank you

ANSWER:

Cynara scolymus, the edible globe artichoke, is a native of the Mediterranean and introduced here as a food plant.  Here are more photos and information from Plants for a Future.  It is a type of thistle.  There  is also Cynara cardunculus (cardoon), its wild introduced relative.  Here are more photos and information from Plants for a Future.

There are other thistles that occur in Idaho.  The native ones in the genus Cirsium are:

Cirsium brevistylum (Clustered thistle) and here are photos of the plant from CalPhotos University of California-Berkeley.

Cirsium canescens (Prairie thistle)

Cirsium edule (Edible thistle)

Cirsium flodmanii (Flodman's thistle)

Cirsium foliosum (Elk thistle)

Cirsium scariosum (Meadow thistle) and here are photos from Southwest Colorado Wildflowers.

There are four thistles that are classified as noxious weeds in Idaho.  They are Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle), Carduus nutans (musk thistle), Onopordum acanthium (Scotch thistle), and Centaurea solstitialis (Yellow starthistle)—all are Eurasian imports.

Here are more photos and information on:  Canada thistle from the National Park Service, Musk thistle from Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group "Least Wanted". and   Scotch thistle from Texas Invasives.

Perhaps your flower/weed is one of the native or introduced thistles.  If you have photographs of it and don't recognize it in the ones I've suggested above, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.

Now, whether it is a wildflower or a weed is up to individual interpretation—one person's weed is another's wildflower!

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
August 24, 2008 - Please help us identify a woodland plant whose fruiting stem looks very similar to a corncob stuck into the ground, pointy end up. It sticks up about 4-5" above the ground. The largish pale yellow fr...
view the full question and answer

Plants of Texas Coastal Bend beaches
November 27, 2013 - What plants are native to the Texas Coastal Bend beaches?
view the full question and answer

Removing faded flowers from plants in Georgetown, DE
July 28, 2012 - I bought a chamase rose quartz that was in bloom. now the buds are dead, should i remove them or just leave them on the plant. they wont just fall off. and the tips of the plant has new growth.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 30, 2007 - We found this plant or something or other in our yard, in the area we found it usually stays wet and it was behind a old tree that was done. It has three big green leaves with a white stem that kind ...
view the full question and answer

Plant ID at Wildflower Center from Waco TX
June 18, 2012 - I was at the Center last weekend and no one was able to answer these two questions: 1. Where can I buy Silver Ponyfoot groundcover? 2. What is the name of the plant with coral blossoms in front of...
view the full question and answer

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