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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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Saturday - June 04, 2005

From: Rchardson, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Smarty Plants on Jewel of the Nile
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

My husband and I just returned from a short trip to San Francisco. While on a bus tour that took us to the Twin Peaks area, we saw some beautiful purple flowers growing on the hillside. Our tour guide called them "Jewel of the Nile" or Comal, and said that when they first bloom their color is orange, then turns purple, and finally blue. The stem of the flower is thick and tall and the flower itself appeared to be at least six inches long. I think that the petals grow in a vertical cluster. What is the proper name for this flower or plant? Is it a wildflower, native to California, or a transplant? Do you think this flower could be grown in the Dallas, Texas area (if I were able to obtain a specimen)?

ANSWER:

I suspect that what you were seeing was "Lily of the Nile" (Agapanthus africanus) or (Agapanthus praecox). These are African species that have been introduced and cultivated as a garden plant. They are very common in gardens of the San Francisco area and could well have escaped into the countryside. As far as I know, however, the blooms begin blue (or white), not orange. They may darken as they mature, however. Their hardiness range is Zones 7 to 9. Since Dallas is in Zone 8, it should do just fine. However, it would be a good idea to confine the plants to a container to keep them from escaping into natural areas since they are not native.
 

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