What are the weirdest questions you have been asked about an organism?

What are the weirdest questions that you or others have asked?
Honestly, I haven’t been asked many questions, so I want to here some of yours.
No criticism to the questions, but some are more questionable questions than others.


“Wait, plants have cells??”


Not a question - but yesterday an obs with placeholder - non-flowering plant.
Picture is a flower - but granted a weird one I haven’t seen, met, nor even heard of before.

(I tease our new Fynbos Ramblers with our daisy diversity - THAT is a daisy!? - her other hiking group vehemently disagreed with her - they are not Plant People)

Try this obviously not a daisy
Or this (without the flower clue)
Berries ? and edible! and the Abominable Hulk’s tiny little sister
A tree
I have observed 106 daisies on the Cape Peninsula - and 196 more waiting from the Checklist


Someone asked “What is it good for?” when I showed them a rare plant…


I think it’s sad that that’s all plants are to people - something they should be able to use or exploit, not a beautiful organism or beneficial ecosystem component


I often get a similar question whenever I am looking for caterpillars. They always want to know if it is a “harmful” or “beneficial” insect. Like, do I have to pick one? Harmful or beneficial to whom exactly? They’re just playing their part in the ecosystem…


The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, ‘what good is it?’ If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part of it is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent thinking.

Good old Leopold.
Or, more simply, how many bolts does a car wheel need? 5? 4? 3? 2? even 1 can be sufficient, but is it a good idea?


“What’s a root?”
“How do you tell if the squirrels are male or female?” (Perhaps not a wierd question overall, but weird to be asking a gardener)
“Do you pronounce the B [in arboretum]?” (Not a question about an organism but still hands down the strangest question I’ve received!)


“But it’s okay to eat the berries, right?”

After showing someone who stopped me and asked for some poison ivy identification tips, I showed them a nearby specimen on a tree which at the time was bearing white berries.


Admittedly I have done something similar… After realizing a lot of the poison ivy around me had berries, I googled “is poison ivy poisonous

I’m sure you can guess what answer Google gave me…


If I’m leading a walk to look at fungi, every time someone says “Can you eat it?” I say “Yes”. Obviously you can - if you couldn’t eat it, how could it poison you?


I think these people are trying to understand the ecological role better, or worried about pests and want to know if it is safe to leave this species alone

Uhh, that could confuse somone


Maybe, but I find that this often overestimates the depth of interest of the average stranger. It’s usually clear from the way they ask that most of these people are not genuinely interested in learning about the insect itself, but rather how it can serve humans. The moment I say it’s not exactly beneficial, they often look ready to walk away or confused why I would be collecting them.


“All Fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once”, as the quote goes.


This is not a stupid question at all.
Yew (Taxus baccata) is very poisonous but you can eat the flesh (aril) and it is quite tasty.


It’s disturbing how many people think that you can tell if berries are safe to eat by whether you see birds eating them.


I’ve been asked at least once, but not in recent years, if a turtle can shed its shell. I think it was when I was showing a group an old shell (minus the rest of the turtle) and someone asked if the turtle might be still alive somewhere. I recall a cartoon from my childhood where the turtle slipped out of his shell, like removing a suit of armor, so maybe that’s the origin of that belief.


Over the Hedge, Looney Tunes, and probably hundreds of other cartoons and movies have images of turtles slipping out of their shell like it’s a piece of clothing, which is really odd…


People think this all the time about snails too, which I suppose is understandable because hermit crabs do this. There even have been a few exceedingly rare cases of a snail somehow separating from its shell and promptly dying.


Really odd, yes, but humorous. And not at all biologically accurate, but few cartoon animals are. (I also discovered as a kid growing up in the Southwest US that real coyotes and roadrunners don’t look at all like their cartoon versions!)