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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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Thursday - May 20, 2010

From: La Grange Park, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Need help identifying a plant with lupine-like leaves in La Grange Park, IL
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


I encountered a plant on a level area just above a creek bed (moist soil, sun to partial sun) at one of the three largest grasslands in Illinois. The specific site looked like it may have been a burn a year or two prior. It had leaves sort of like a lupine, with something like 13 leaves in a round wheel-like arrangement per stem, and a much larger plant than lupine, not to mention a completely different looking flower. Plant was probably about 3' high. Flower was like a mini corn cob, blooming from first 2 inches at bottom, but soon to go up the deep blue/purple "flowering stalk", which was about 4 to six inches long. Any idea what it was?


Mr. Smarty Plants has found that it is very difficult if not impossible to identify a plant from a written description, but when you mentioned that it had Lupine-like leaves, Mr. Smarty Plants got to thinking that maybe you were looking at a Lupine. I went to our Native Plant Database page, scrolled down to the Narrow your Search box, and made the following selections: Illinois under State, Herb under Habit, and Perennial under Lifespan. I checked Part shade for Light Requirement, Dry for Soil Moisture and Purple for Bloom Color. This gave me a list of 40 plants that fit the criteria that I selected. Scrolling down the list, I came across Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine).

This plant has lupine-like leaves (7 -11 leaflets per whorl), has a size range of 1-3 feet, and the blooms are blue to purple. (images from google)

If this is not the plant you saw, and if you have pictures of the plant, go to the Plant Identification page and follow the directions for sending us images. When we get them, we'll give it another try.


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