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?


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
1 rating

Sunday - January 08, 2012

From: West palm beach, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton


When we moved in to this house, we planted many plants in the front landscaping. After they grew, it became too crowded. We had to move some plants to the backyard. The problem is, we have a plant that we aren't sure where it came from. We may have planted it or it may have grown in. It grew to about 10 feet tall in a year. It has several thin woody stems. They grow in different directions, so the plant is pretty big. The leaves are green on top and purple on bottom. There are small, purple clusters of what seem to be seeds coming from the stems, usually above leaves. I would be okay with the plant, but it is spreading throughout the yard. If you could identify it or at least tell me if it is native or not, I would be very grateful.


There is one herbaceous plant that your description brings to mind, Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed).  Although its stems aren't truly woody, they can be substantial and it does grow rapidly and has purple berries.  Here is another photo showing reddish/purplish leaves and you can see more photos here.  It would be nice to know what the shape of the leaves are on your plant and I don't understand whether the leaves near the bottom are purple while the leaves near the top are green or whether the bottom side of each leaf is purple and the top side of the leaf is green.

Since the pokeweed didn't exactly match your description, I did a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database choosing "Florida" under Select State or Province and "Shrub" under Habit (general appearance) to find shrubs native to Florida.  I looked through the 160 results and didn't really see anything that matched your description.   You should try the same search and look at them yourself.  You can also do a similar search using "Tree" for the search term under Habit (general appearance)

There is a very good chance that your plant is not native.  Florida's climate is very conducive to growing tropical non-natives.  Your best bet for identification would be to take photos and then visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant forums that accept photos for identification.


From the Image Gallery

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

More Plant Identification Questions

Mystery small tree with many large thorns
May 09, 2011 - In a small spot on over 2 acres, we have this strange tree/shrub. It is a single, straight stem with no branches, and has profuse, large thorns from top to bottom. At the top of the stem, the leaves...
view the full question and answer

Identification of stem from a bouquet
January 02, 2012 - I have a stem with leaves that came in a bouquet May 2011. They are still healthy in a vase of water tho they have no roots, just stem. On the back center of each leaf are protrusions half an inch lon...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification for West Virginia
May 01, 2011 - Looking for the name of a wild flower in West Virginia, small golden colored petals..resembles a daisy.
view the full question and answer

Identification of thorny tree with lemon-like fruit
October 14, 2010 - What would be a small lemon like fruit that grows on a bush with large thorns? The fruit is about the size of a golf ball, kind of fuzzy yellow skin like a lemon and smells like a cross between an or...
view the full question and answer

Identity of a plant in Ohio
May 11, 2009 - Trying to identify a tree/shrub in Ohio. It grows from 6-8', and blooms through the summer. It has small green glossy leaves, and bell/trumpet shaped flowers in pink, white, or yellow with stripes. T...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center