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       in the Sonoran
   Stir-Frying Ironwood
       Seeds
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Master Gardener Journal  


A S K   A   G A R D E N E R



Mystery Plant

by Judy Curtis, Master Gardener

Question: Recently, a plant I don't recognize appeared in my yard. It is fast growing, tall and spindly, with thick blue-green leaves and yellow tubular flowers. What could it be?

When this plant first appeared in my garden years ago, I thought it was a stray cabbage or cauliflower. I learned that it was tree tobacco or Nicotiana glauca, native to Argentina and Bolivia. It has spread into most of the Southwest and is considered invasive in some areas.

While it is in the tobacco family and has been used ritually by native tribes, it does not have much nicotine in it. The best reason to keep it in the landscape is that hummingbirds love it. It is also fast growing. I have used it near a new tree to give height until the tree grew taller. It dies back in the winter and can be cut to the ground. It will recover quickly in the spring.

This said, one must decide if the advantages outweigh the problems with tree tobacco. All parts of the plant are toxic if ingested, and it can become a pest if there is adequate water. I allow one or two to grow each year for the birds, but if you have young children you might choose not to keep it around.


Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated July 28, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopa-hort@ag.arizona.edu 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092