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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.

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

 
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Saturday - June 01, 2013

From: Theodore, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of tall plant with five-petaled purple flowers
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I recently moved into a house and have a plant near my fence that has purple flowers with five petals and a somewhat thick stem, about a half inch. The leaves are sparse and it grows about four to six feet so far but I keep cutting it back because it wont attach to the fence, it just sort of grows up until it leans onto my driveway. It remind me of some morning glories I once had but I do not think the stems were that thick..almost like small branches and brown. Do you have any idea what it is?

ANSWER:

One candidate for your tall plant is the Mexican native Ruellia caerulea (Britton's wild petunia).  It has several synonyms:  e.g., Ruellia brittoniana (Mexican petunia), Ruellia simplex, Ruellia tweediana (Mexican petunia).  It is considered invasive in Texas and southeastern states.  It grows to about 3 feet tall.  Floridata says that it has strong semi-woody stems.

I did a COMBINATION SEARCH for other possibilities in our Native Plant Database, choosing "Alabama" from the Select State or Province option and "Blue", "Purple", and "Violet". from Bloom Color.  The only species I could find that were at all similar to your description were these three species of Ruellia.  None of them grow as tall as the Mexican petunia described above.  You should try the same search yourself in case I overlooked a plant that could be yours.

Ruellia caroliniensis (Carolina wild petunia)

Ruellia humilis (Fringeleaf wild petunia)

Ruellia strepens (Limestone ruellia)

There are two other databases that feature plants of Alabama and/or Southeastern wildflowers.   In both of these you can search by flower color.

Southeastern Flora

Alabama Plants

If your plant is not one of the plants listed above or you didn't find it in the plant databases listed above, you can photograph it and visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants to identify.

 

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