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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - May 14, 2014

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Trees
Title: Identification of tree with round purple leaves
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What is tne name of the purple leaf tree whose leaves are spherical? Maybe 1 to 2" in diameter? A neighbor who has moved now, had one but cut it down before i could find out or rescue it. It wasnt large (maybe 10 ft?) and grew in the shade in Houston. Definitely a tree, not a bush.

ANSWER:

By spherical I assume you mean that the leaves are round, not globe-shaped.  As far as I know there aren't any native trees with round purple leaves.  There are cultivated plants that have purple leaves.  Our focus and expertise here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are with plants native to North America.  Cultivated plants generally have been imported from elsewhere so we will have to refer you to other sources to search for your tree other than searching in our Native Plant Database that countains only North American natives.

Here are some of the popular cultivated plants with purple leaves from (Trees and Shrubs with Purple Leaves from About.com) and more trees and shrubs with purple leaves from BlueBell Arboretum & Nursery.  Some possibilities are Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea', Prunus cerasifera 'Thundercloud' and Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'.  If none of these suggestions look like the tree that you saw, you might consider contacting the Harris County AgriLife Extension Agent or going to a large commercial nursery to ask if they know of a tree that meets your description.

 

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