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Native Plant Trust: Go Botany Discover thousands of New England plants

Ask the Botanist

Ace Acer

Our ace botanists are here to help you identify wild New England plants and to answer questions about their ecology and conservation. When posting a question, please provide the location, habitat (e.g. river, mountain, woodland), and photographs of the plant.

Everyone can read the answers, but only logged-in users can ask questions. Log in to ask a question.

All Questions and Answers

Recently Answered Questions

  • Question
    I can’t identify this plant. Woody area. Central Maine
    Answer
    Dear allagash, you have photographed Polygaloides paucifolia (fringed false milkwort), a species formerly known by the name Polygala paucifolia (if you try to look it up in a wildflower book, it will be under the latter name in all likelihood). It is an infrequent (but not rare) native herb in the Maine. Best wishes. (Friday, 20 May 2022)
  • Question
    Hi, i'm trying to identify a shrub that i see all over the cape cod national Seashore around the ranger's station. I've also seen it in residential landscaping around Chatham ma. Any help identifying it would be greatly appreciated.
    Answer
    Ando1, good morning. This appears to be Cytisus scoparius (Scotch broom), a non-native shrub in the Fabaceae with green, angled branches. This species produces compound leaves with three leaflets and some simple leaves. It is most common in New England along the greater coastal plain. Best wishes. (Friday, 20 May 2022)
  • Question
    Hello, I am from a little town in Massachusetts called North Brookfield. Since I was a young girl, I have been looking for a four leaf clover. I am now in my mid thirties and a mom of three young children anr barely have time to shower let alone scan for these lucky charms. I had the opportunity to spend a couple days outside recently and was excited to scan the grass. Astonished, I came across what I believe to be a four, five, six, and seven leaf clover. Can you help me?!
    Answer
    Dear Lyndsay, good morning. It does appear you have found an actual four-leaved clover. The +/- crescent marks on the leaves suggest this might be a species like Trifolium pratense (red clover). It is a common species that does grown on lawns and in fields. Wonderful find. (Friday, 20 May 2022)
  • Question
    Located in MA. Just got a few Red Brandywine tomato plants that don’t look super healthy. Before I plant them in the raised beds, would like to know if there are any major diseases going on here. There are yellow leaves, a few leaves with some gray/black on them and one or more leaf that appears gradient dark then becoming more light towards the tip. They also appear puffy. I can include more photos if helpful. Thank you for any help you may be able to provide. Melissa
    Answer
    Dear melissaj312, good morning. I'm sorry that I cannot help. I am not a plant pathologist or horticulturalist. There are many things that can affect plant growth that I'm not familiar enough with to diagnose. Go Botany is a website dedicated to wild plant identification and conservation in New England. I hope you will be able to find the answer and keep your plant healthy. (Friday, 20 May 2022)
  • Question
    I just have a question about Urishol. I see too many conflicting things online bout it. Does the plant have to be damaged to release the oil? If you do get it on you what is the best way to get it off everything? I use 91 percent alcohol and spray it on items I believe to have gotten in the oil even if I haven't touched it or know its there. . Are there any items out there that can be sprayed on that you know to work well. I need your help I am terrified to even go in the woods at this point.
    Answer
    Dear themooseinacanoe, good afternoon. The answer is: it really depends on your sensitivity to urishiol. For example, I can walk among the species of poison-ivy and even touch them lightly without issue. Others, that is too much contact and they develop dermatitis. No, you don't have to damage the plant if you are very sensitive. Soap works well, but you must remember that a large proporton of the urishiol has already absorbed within ten minutes. So, lawsone containing plants like touch-me-not (genus Impatiens) works well because the lawsone binds to the same receptor areas as urishiol but is both more aggressive and non-allergenic. The sap from Impatiens can be applied hours later and drastically reduce or even block any allergic reaction. Best wishes. (Thursday, 19 May 2022)
  • Question
    Hi, Here is a closer pic
    Answer
    Dear ando1, good afternoon. Thank you for a closer image. The plant looks like Cytisus scoparius (Scotch broom), a non-native woody plant that is most common in the region along the greater coastal plain. Best wishes. (Thursday, 19 May 2022)
  • Question
    Hi, i'm trying to identify a shrub that i see all over the cape cod national Seashore around the ranger's station. I've also seen it in residential landscaping around Chatham ma. Any help identifying it would be greatly appreciated.
    Answer
    Dear ando1, good morning. The image you've uploaded is simply too far away from the plant for me to see any details. Do you have an image taken closer to the plant so that I can see the leaves, stems, etc.? If so, please upload it so I can assist you. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 17 May 2022)
  • Question
    Small tree at the edge of wetlands, Lincoln, Massachusetts.
    Answer
    Dear jfc, good morning. I'm certain from the images you provided, but it looks like a sapling of Betula alleghaniensis. You can confirm the identification by seeking a wintergreen odor from the bruised branchlet. If this is not correct, email me and we can discuss further. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 17 May 2022)
  • Question
    Hi There’s a large section of my wooded property where Rubus idaeus is spreading and thriving. My research has come up with conflicting information and I’m not sure if it is a native of my area. I am in the southwest part of Connecticut. Can you confirm that it is ok to let spread and that it is not invasive in my area? I have been fighting to keep barberry, garlic mustard and burning bush off my property and don’t want another invasive species to take their place. Thank you Danielle
    Answer
    Dear DanielleD, the question you have asked is a bit nuanced. Rubus idaeus is both a native and non-native shrub in New England. There are two subspecies: subsp. strigosus (native) and subsp. idaeus (non-native). They can be identified by the presence/absence of stipitate glands along the axis of the inflorescence and sometimes also on the young stems (present is the native, absent in the non-native). Best wishes. (Tuesday, 17 May 2022)
  • Question
    Hi, my name is Chloe and I'm here to ask questions for my high school research project. The first question is what kind of work do you do as a botanist? The next is what do you like and dislike about your work? The last question is what is your advice for future botanists? Thank you!
    Answer
    Dear chloev, good afternoon. I am a plant taxonomist, so I study plant identification and classification. As part of this work, I teach people how to identify plants and use that skill to locate and survey for rare species. I'm fortunate as there isn't much that I actually dislike about this work. Sometimes we have to work in difficult conditions (e.g., precipitation, heat, biting insects), but I don't mind these things. Future botanists should be aware that as apps and technology increases for identification help, people are losing their skill at identifying plants. With this comes a loss of detailed knowledge of plants and their morphology--which also impacts our ability to interact with plants in other ways (such as for food and medicine). Intimate knowledge of plants comes from many years of study--not the newest smartphone app. I hope this helps. (Monday, 16 May 2022)

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