En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - September 09, 2011

From: Arlington, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

In North Central Texas recommended plants, there are three coneflowers listed: Echinacea angustifolia-Black sampson E. purpurea-Purple coneflower E. purpurea-Eastern purple coneflower Is the Eastern purple coneflower by chance E. palida rather than E. purpurea?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants visited the Texas-North Central Recommended page to find only Echinacea angustifolia (Black sampson) and Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower) listed.  E. purpurea has both "Eastern purple coneflower" and "purple coneflower" listed as its common names.  Echinacea pallida (Pale purple coneflower) also has another common name listed—"pale coneflower", but E. pallida isn't on the Texas-North Central Recommended list.  So, I'm not exactly sure what you are asking.  Are you asking if we have the wrong common name associated with E. purpurea?  Should "purple coneflower" be used as the common name for E. pallida?  If that is what you are asking, there is an authority that dictates what the appropriate scientific/botanical/Latin names should be—the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature is the authority that sets the rules—but, for common names there is no authority.  The common names are determined by people who live in the region where the plants grow.  If the plant occurs over a large region, it's almost guaranteed to have more than one common name, especially if the language of the regions are different (e.g., Pluchea odorata (Saltmarsh fleabane or sweetscent) has the common name of "Santa Maria" in Mexico but its botanical name is Pluchea odorata everywhere).  To complicate things even more, common names can refer to two (or even more) totally different plants.  An example for this is Smilax pumila (Sarsaparilla vine) which also has the common names of "wild sarsaparilla," "dwarf Smilax," and "dwarf greenbrier."  This plant is in the Family Liliaceae (Lily Family).  Not only is Aralia nudicaulis (Wild sarsaparilla), which shares the same common name as Smilax pumila, a completely different plant, it is even in a completely different family—the Family Araliaceae (Ginseng Family).  So, if you are asking if we have given the common name "purple coneflower" to the wrong plant, who can really say for sure?   Some people may call E. pallida "purple coneflower" while others call E. purpurea by that name.

Now, it is possible that you are asking if E. pallida should be on the Texas-North Central Recommended list instead of E. purpurea.  You can see by the Texas distribution maps from the USDA Plants Database for each (E. pallida and E. purpurea) that neither is widely distributed over North Central Texas.  E. pallida does have a slightly larger distribution, but they have both been cultivated and grow well there.  According to Joe Marcus, at the Wildflower Center:

"The lists were compiled of native plant species that are both native to a given area and can be found in the nursery trade.  So while Echinacea pallida is known to occur in North Texas, the list compilers could find no nurseries in that area that offered it for sale."

This, no doubt, is why they included E. purpurea and E. angustifolia, but not E. pallida.

Finally, if you are questioning the fact that there are two common names by E. purpurea, then I will point out that many of the plants on the list have multiple names.  For instance, E. angustifolia (Black Sampson) is also called "Black Samson echinacea" and "Narrow-leaf Coneflower."

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Pale purple coneflower
Echinacea pallida

Black samson
Echinacea angustifolia

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Milkweed with the biggest pods in Smith County, TX?
September 11, 2009 - I live in East Texas and I would like to know which of the milkweed plants bears the largest seed pod. I would also like to know the best time to locate the pods in and around the Smith County area.
view the full question and answer

Shade tolerant plants for erosion from Austin
May 03, 2014 - I live in Austin and my house backs up to Shoal Creek. I am looking for a native creeping vine or something that will grow on the shaded bank to help prevent erosion. It should be able to tolerate the...
view the full question and answer

Failure of TX bluebonnets to thrive
May 28, 2015 - We have had extraordinary luck with bluebonnets growing in our driveway of decomposed granite--until last year and this year. The bluebonnets seem to be drying up and wilting away. The ones in other a...
view the full question and answer

Plants for freestanding water in Oklahoma
July 28, 2013 - I have an overflowing gutter and the ground below becomes a muddy hole. I'd like to put a basin or pot in/or above the ground with a rain chain. Are there any plants--shrubs or otherwise that flouris...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Texas sage from Bastrop, TX
March 01, 2013 - Am I wasting my time trying to transplant texas sage runners? Any advice?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center