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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 - March 15, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Possibly escaped non-native Buddleja davidii in Missouri
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

About 3 years ago my wife and I were traveling thru southeastern Missouri and stopped at a road side rest station on Interstate 44. While we were there we noticed a shrub about 4 to 5 feet tall with pale blue flowers. This plant was covered with butterflies. We counted 12 to 15 different types. There were other flowering plants in the same bed and in other beds nearby but all of the butterflies were on this one plant. This was in late August/early September. Is there anyway to find out what this plant was? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER:

It is possible that the shrub you saw was butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii—often spelled: Buddleia). It is not native to North America, but is commonly planted in gardens and may be an escapee. It comes in a variety of colors, blooms in late summer, and is definitely a butterfly magnet. Another possibility for a cultivated plant that fits your description is French hybrid ceanothus (Ceanothus x delilianus). It is a hybrid of C. coeruleus (synonym=C. caeruleus) from Mexico and C. americanus that is native to Missouri. The hybrid is a hardy plant with pale blue flowers.

Here are some other possibilities that are Missouri natives and somewhat fit your description:

Blue sage (Salvia azurea var. grandiflora)
Narrow-leaved mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)
Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum)

If none of these look like the shrub you saw, you might check the plants with blue flowers on Missouriplants.com.
 

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