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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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Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Saturday - May 14, 2011

From: Beeville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification for Beeville, TX
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Today in Beeville, TX I came across a plant that looks like a grass, but has a small black and white dotted flower. The flower looks like an orchid. Could you identify this or give me direction as to where I might find the answer?

ANSWER:

LATE BREAKING NEWS!  Someone saw this question and answer and suggested another possibility for a "plant that looks like a grass, but has a small black and white dotted flower".  You can read the question  from the person who made the suggestion.  The suggested plant is Aristolochia erecta (Swanflower) and it sounds as if could be your plant. It does have a black flower with white dots and it is described on the species page as being grass-like.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Aristolochia erecta

 


Aristolochia erecta


Aristolochia erecta


Aristolochia erecta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this doesn't happen to be the right plant, then consider the suggestions in the answer below:

Well, Mr. Smarty Plants is embarrassed to admit it, but I don't know of a native plant that matches your description exactly. However, here is my best guess:  Delphinium carolinianum (Carolina larkspur).  It has orchid-like flowers that range from white to blue and have dark spots near the end their petals.  They are tall like a grass although their foliage isn't really grass-like.  Here are some more photos from the School of Biological Sciences The University of Texas, from the University of Wisconsin Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium and from Kansas Wildflowers & Grasses.

If that's not it, then here are some other more remote possibilities:

There is one orchid in or near Bee County, Corallorhiza wisteriana (Spring coralroot), that has a spotted flower.  The spots, however, are described as purple or brown.   Here is another photo from the North Carolina Native Plant Society.

I did find one North American native white flower with black dots, Nemophila menziesii var. atomaria (Ninespot or Salt and Pepper), but it occurs in the redwood forests of Northern California and Oregon.  I doubt that it would have found its way to South Texas.  Additionally, it doesn't look like a grass or have a flower that looks to me like orchid. Here is another photo.

Two other remote possibilities are both members of the Family Iridaceae (Iris Family): Herbertia lahue (Prairie nymph) and Alophia drummondii (Propeller flower).  Both are normally bluish or purple, but they do have grass like foliage, do look like orchids and have spotted centers.  Although, I've never seen one, it is possible that there are flowers with pigment mutations that dim the blue/purple color to make them appear almost white with dark spots.

If we had a description of where (what kind of habitat) you found it and a more thorough description of its foliage and size, we might be able to come up with its identification.  If you visit our Plant Identification page, you will find several forums listed that specialize in identifying plants and are happy to accept photos for identification.  The South Texas Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas in Corpus Christi is the chapter nearest you.  Perhaps, if you contact them, someone will recognize the plant you describe. 

There is also the possibility that it is an exotic introduced species.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Delphinium carolinianum


Corallorhiza wisteriana


Herbertia lahue


Alophia drummondii

 

 

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