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

 
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Wednesday - July 06, 2011

From: Granville, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Vines
Title: Identification of a vine with purple flowers
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'm trying to identify a vine-like plant growing in my yard to determine if it is a weed or should be kept around. It has small purple flowers with a small yellow center, looking like a mini honeysuckle; about the size of a penny. The plant has green berries or seed pods, small, about the size of a pencil eraser. While similar to a vine it has a light colored tan/grey bark.

ANSWER:

First of all, remember that one person's weed is another person's wildflower.  If you like the vine and it isn't an invasive species, I see no reason why you shouldn't keep it and enjoy it.  Now let's see if we can figure out what it might be.

If you do (as I did) a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database choosing 'New York' from Select State of Province, 'Vine' from Habit (general appearance) and 'Pink', 'Blue', 'Purple' and 'Violet' from Bloom Characteristics–Color, you will see 20 species of vines native to New York.  Here are some from that search that sound a bit like your description:

Clitoria mariana (Atlantic pigeonwings)

Clematis occidentalis var. occidentalis (Purple clematis) and here are more photos.

Lathyrus japonicus (Beach pea) and here are photos and information.

Lathyrus palustris (Marsh pea)

Strophostyles helvola (Amberique-bean) and here are more photos and information.

Vicia americana (American vetch)

There is a good possibility that your plant is not a North American native.  Here are a few non-native invasive vines that occur in New York that somewhat like your description.  These are ones you would definitely want to remove.

Akebia quinata (chocolate vine)

Jacquemontia tamnifolia (smallflower morningglory)

Lathyrus latifolius (everlasting peavine)

Vicia cracca (bird vetch) and here are photos.

Vicia villosa (hairy vetch) and here are photos.

Vinca minor (common periwinkle)

It is also possible that your vine is non-native, but not considered invasive and I haven't shown it above.  If none of the ones I've shown above is your vine, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that might be able to help you.  All of the identification forum links allow you to submit photos for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Atlantic pigeonwings
Clitoria mariana

Western blue virginsbower
Clematis occidentalis

Marsh pea
Lathyrus palustris

Amberique-bean
Strophostyles helvola

American vetch
Vicia americana

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