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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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Thursday - November 17, 2011

From: Norfolk, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of perennial with dark red/purple flowers
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Need to identify a lovely perennial here in Norfolk, Virginia. It reseeds itself, spreads, and lingers into the late fall. It has rather thick, dark green, alternate spatulate leaves at the base with thin stalks of tiny lovely dark red/purple flowers which look like small beads. Total height is about 18 inches. The "beads" come off the main stalk in alternate arrangements with each bead occupying an end of a fine, hair-like "branch." It is very shallow rooted and the leaves and base are very tender and easily snapped. I was told it was "Jewels of the Nile," but it is not a hosta or the large blue "Jewel of the Nile." I have photos which I can forward if desired. Thank you!

ANSWER:

Searching for your plant, I did a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database and selected "Virginia" from the Select State or Province option, "Herb" from Habit (general appearance), "September", "October" and "November" from Bloom Time and "Red" and "Purple" from Bloom Color.  This resulted in 98 plants native to Virginia, but none of them appeared to match your description.   You should try doing the search yourself to see if, perhaps, I missed it; but, I suspect that your plant is not a North American native.  Since our expertise and focus here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is with North American native plants, we are not the best source for identifying cultivated non-native plants.  If you visit our Plant Identification page, you will find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos for identification.  However, the best option would probably be to contact the Norfolk Master Gardener Association and/or the Norfolk Botanical Garden—sources closer to you that would have expertise in cultivated plants of your area.

 

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