Q: Hearty “volunteer” plants have recently emerged within our side yard. No clue as to what this plant is. We suspect the seeds might have been deposited by visiting birds. Would be ever so pleased if plant could be of use for nectar-feeding hummingbirds. Would appreciate your assistance with plant identification and/or description of place within the great environmental scheme of things! Do hope the plant has positive place, as we have grown quite attached to its presence!
A: That is Nicotiana glauca, aka tree tobacco. It is native to South America and was introduced to the United States in the early 1800s as a landscape ornamental. It is moderately invasive and spread by seed that is moved around by rain mostly, although some animal ingesting could come into play. Some people like it for the flowers and others think it’s a weed. Like some other members of the Solanaceae plant family, tree tobacco is poisonous so be careful. Hummingbirds are the main pollinators of this plant due to the tubular flowers so you should see that benefit. You may find bees robbing nectar by chewing a hole in the side of the flowers.
Peter Warren is the urban horticulture agent for the Pima County Cooperative Extension and the UA. Questions may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org