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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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Thursday - November 21, 2013

From: Redding, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of small dome-shaped furry plant, smells like bubblegum
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi, I always see this plant when I'm on the river trail in Redding CA. and I can't find it anywhere on the internet. The plant is very small, I think it is some type of weeds that grow. It's a light light greenish whitish frost color and it is furry. I love the smell of it--it all most smells like bubble gum. If you could tell me the name of this plant that would awesome,,, Thank you. Oh and also, the plant grows out wide instead of tall and is kinda dome-shaped.

ANSWER:

My best guess is that your plant is Croton setigerus [synonym = Eremocarpus setigerus] (Dove weed or turkey mullein).  It grows as a low mound, wider than it is tall, is gray-green and 'furry' and is described as heavily scented or having "an unpleasantly sweet odor"—some say it smells like 'tutti-fuitti'.  It is considered an agricultural pest by some.  Here are more photos and information from University of California IPM Online, Calflora, Natural History of Orange County and CalPhotos from University of California-Berkeley.

In case this isn't the plant you have seen, here are a couple of other possibilities:

Artemisia tridentata (Big sagebrush) is a native California plant and is certainly gray-green and aromatic, but is a bit larger than your description suggests.  Here are more photos and information from Tree of Life Web.

Verbascum thapsis (Mullein) is a biennial plant and the first year it is only a mound of gray-green 'furry' leaves. The second year it grows a tall stalk of flowers. It is not native and is considered invasive.  I have never noticed a strong scent associated with this plant.  Here is more from Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group's Least Wanted.

If none of the above are your plant and you happen to have a photo or photos, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

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