Landscape Design forum: Let's play guess that plant!

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Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
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knoxred
Feb 27, 2010 11:19 PM CST
We're going to try a fun game that provides a natural lead-in to my next article, "Identifying Plants in Your Landscape". It's based on my time manning the MG hotline when people would call in to the Ag Extension office, hoping for a plant identification. It was always fun to listen to new MGs take calls, since they didn't know which questions to ask. They would catch on mighty fast after a few calls like the one we'll describe here. You'll see as we go along which pieces of information are the most useful in determining ID.

I'll add clues one at a time until someone gets the answer, at which point the special article will be posted.

Jump in with guesses, or with questions to pose to the caller.
[Last edited by knoxred - Jul 11, 2011 5:24 PM (+)]
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Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Feb 27, 2010 11:20 PM CST
Ring! Ring!

MG: "Agricultural Extension Office, how may I help you?"
Caller: "I want to know why my plant died."
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Feb 27, 2010 11:21 PM CST
MG: "Well, ma'am, I'd love to help you. What type of plant was it?"
Caller: "It was the one Aunt Edna gave me."
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Feb 27, 2010 11:25 PM CST
MG: "Perhaps if you described it, I could figure out the type of plant and determine what went wrong. What did the plant look like?"
Caller: "It was real pretty, until it died."

MG: Confused (clearly time for some VERY specific questions)
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
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knoxred
Mar 1, 2010 6:18 AM CST
MG: "What shape were the leaves?"
Caller: "They looked like hearts."
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Mar 1, 2010 6:30 AM CST
MG: "Was this a houseplant?"
Caller: "Oh, goodness, no! I can't have plants in the house. My cat would eat them."
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Mar 2, 2010 4:35 PM CST
MG: "What color were the leaves?"
Caller: "Green"
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Mar 3, 2010 7:57 AM CST
MG: "Did the leaves have any markings or were they solid green?"
Caller: "Solid green."
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Mar 4, 2010 7:46 AM CST
MG: "How big were the leaves?"
Caller: "Oh, they were pretty small."
Name: Molly Denza
Columbia, TN
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mollyd1953
Mar 4, 2010 1:14 PM CST
Hilarious! Hilarious! Clear as mud weren't they!! Hilarious! Hilarious!

MollyD
RainDog Farm,Columbia,Tn
Goats




Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Mar 4, 2010 1:21 PM CST
Can't you just imagine the frustration of getting a call like this? It makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time.

I promise this example is going somewhere...
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Mar 5, 2010 8:56 AM CST
MG: In inches, how long and wide were the leaves?
Caller: Oh, about 3-4 inches long and maybe 3 inches wide.
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
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knoxred
Mar 7, 2010 9:39 AM CST
MG: "In inches or feet, how big was the plant?"
Caller: "Well it went up for a few inches, then draped down over the sides of the pot. It was probably a couple feet long."
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Mar 8, 2010 6:52 AM CST
MG: "By any chance, did the plant turn black when you put it outside?"
Caller: "Yes! It turned black and then it died."
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Mar 9, 2010 1:58 PM CST
MG: "Ma'am, try googling Philodendron scandens to see if it matches your plant."

Caller: "You mean it's a philodendron? Oh, I thought Edna said she brought it back from Philadelphia. Well, yes, I'm looking at the picture on the Internet now, and that's what it was....oh, it says it's a houseplant. I guess that's why it died when I put it outside in February, huh?"

MG: "Yes, ma'am, that's likely the problem. Glad I could help."
Name: Red
Knoxville, TN
Charter ATP Member Region: Tennessee Region: Georgia Garden Art Cat Lover Butterflies
Seed Starter Container Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Ferns Irises Bulbs
Image
knoxred
Mar 9, 2010 2:18 PM CST
As you can see from the progression of the call, it's as important to ask the right questions as it is to give accurate answers. Terms like big,small, pretty, etc. are relative, and mean different things to each person. Getting specific measurements and descriptions are important. Also, a term like "houseplant" can be misleading. There are no houseplants in nature. By definition, a houseplant is just a plant you grow in the house. The list of plants that must be grown as houseplants varies by geographical location. It was because the caller didn't know the ID, and therefore the proper growing conditions for her plant, that her plant died.

Luckily in this case, the red herring of "not a houseplant" didn't take the MG too far off track. Having looked at some of the possible plants with heart-shaped leaves:

Caladium
Catalpa
Cercidiphylllum
Cercis
Colocasia
Hexastylis
some Hydrangea species
Linden
Paulownia
Philodendron
Pothos

and combined that with 3-4", solid green leaves, and a trailing habit, there weren't too many likely candidates.

You can also see where a picture brought into the office would have yielded a quick and easy ID for a very common plant.

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