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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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Friday - May 18, 2012

From: New Era, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Plant Identification
Title: Identification of plant resembling garlic mustard, but with purple flowers
Answered by: Nan Hampton


While searching for the invasive garlic mustard I am finding a very similar looking plant (triangular, alternate, toothed leaves; four petals, same habitat of shaded roadside and interior woods) except this plant has purple flowers and does not have a garlic odor when crushed. It is colonial, biennial, and exhibits a "C" curved root when pulled. It seems to be very abundant and forming colonies in areas of trilliums and Jack-in-the-Pulpits. Any advice as to the identity of this plant and whether or not it should be treated as invasive? Thank you.


A likely possibility for the plant you are seeing that resembles Alliaria petiolata (Garlic mustard) is Hesperis matronalis (Dame's rocket) and it is considered invasive in some areas.  Here are more photos and information from the Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide and from Missouri Botanical Garden.

You can see some native plants that are poosibilities by doing a search in our Native Plant Database.  Choose "Brassicaceae" from the list of Families.   When the list comes up use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to choose "Michigan" from the Select State or Province option and then "Pink", "Purple" and "Violet" from Bloom Color.

If neither Hesperis matronalis (Dame's rocket) nor any of the native plants in our Native Plant Database is the plant you have seen, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that accept photos for identification.


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