Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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 - July 29, 2013

From: Oxford, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Plant Identification
Title: Invasive spreading weed in Michigan that looks like a small pine tree
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have an invasive spreading weed in my gardens. It has black root system, comes up looking like a small pine tree. The green breaks off when you try to pull it.

ANSWER:

Michigan State University Extension Service has a list, Michigan Invasive Plant Species Accounts, of plants that have become invasive or have invasive tendencies in Michigan.  Michigan Invasive Plant Council (MIPC) shows the Federal Noxious Weeds list with Michigan invasive plants marked on the list.

Your description of a plant looking like a small pine, however, sounds like one of the native horsetails (Equisetum species).  There are two possibilities:

1.  Equisetum arvense (Field horsetail) is the most likelly possibility.  It has roots that are described by Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago as "pallid-brown, or red brown, or black".  It also has underground stems (rhizomes) that are "dull brown".

Michigan State University describes it as "a weed of landscape beds and low-lying areas."  Oregon State University offers strategies for controlling field horsetail and here is more information about controlling it from Penn State Extension and the Pacific Northwest Weed Management Handbook.

2.  Equisetum sylvaticum (Woodland horsetail) is another possibility.   Here is more information from Rook.org.

The Family Equisetaceae (Horsetail Family) are non-flowering plants that reproduce by spores.  There are a couple of non-native flowering plants that could possibly be the plant you describe.

3.  Tanacetum vulgare (Common tansy) is a native of Europe and has fern-like leaves that could be interpreted as looking like a small pine.  I could find no mention of black roots.  Here are more photos and information from Robert W. Freckman Herbarium, University of Wisconsin.  It is listed as invasive or noxious weed in Montana, Minnesota and California, among others.

4.  Echium vulgare (Viper's bugloss), a native of Europe and Asia, is reported to have black roots and is reported invasive in the northeastern United States, but it doesn't look particularly like a small pine to me.  Here are more photos and information from Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide.  The Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) from Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States shows it occurring in Oakland County.

You don't mention flowers.  Your plant will eventually have flowers unless it is one of the horsetails or other non-flowering plants such as a fern.  If it is a flowering plant, when the flowers do appear it will be easier to identify.  If you still can't identify it after it blooms, you should photograph it and visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.   Be sure to read the Important Notes on that page before submitting your photographs to any of the plant identification forums.

 

From the Image Gallery


Field horsetail
Equisetum arvense

Field horsetail
Equisetum arvense

Woodland horsetail
Equisetum sylvaticum

Woodland horsetail
Equisetum sylvaticum

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification from Springfield MA
July 19, 2009 - We have a house next to us that is vacant. The lawn has not been mowed in months. a tall flower has grown amongst the grass and weeds. It is about 3 to 4 feet tall green stem and the flower is about 2...
view the full question and answer

ID for two flowers blooming in November in Buda TX
November 29, 2015 - two different plants growing in my wild area. 1. springs of tiny yellow flowers atop almost foot tall woody stem. 2. Clump of tiny near white bud like flowers. clump about 6 to 8 inches across on ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of red lily-like blossom in Austin, TX
September 21, 2012 - Rain at last in Austin! The rain lilies are up, but wait, what on earth is this? Lily like, 6 petals, but a cluster of 6 stalks w/blood red blooms slightly larger than our rain lilies - Off under a ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 29, 2008 - Greetings, Sir/Madam! What is the name of that weed that grows ubiquitously in St. Augustine, Fl (literally overnight when it rains) and has two skinny "arms", with little greenish beads on the arm...
view the full question and answer

Information about plant called Josephs tears, possibly Jobs tears (Coix lacryma-jobi)
October 08, 2007 - I recently received a plant and was told it was a succulent called Joseph's Tears. According to the individual who gave it to me, during the month of September it develops a little growth at the tip...
view the full question and answer

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