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
1 rating

Wednesday - June 05, 2013

From: Bethlehem, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of riparian plant in Pennsylvania
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'm wondering if this is a native plant: the plant is 3-5ft. tall, it has a tough reedy stalk, grows in sunny riparian areas, has whorled leaves with toothed margin, and has elongated clusters of tiny reddish flowers. This plant seems to grow in colonies, and it seems quite common along our spring-fed creek. Does this type of plant seem familiar to you?

ANSWER:

This sounds like one of the docks.  There are several native and introduced species that occur in Pennsylvania.  The one that is the most similar to your description is one of the native ones:

Rumex orbiculatus (Greater water dock)  Here are more photos and information from the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center and University of Michigan Herbarium.

There are three other native species that are candidates:

Rumex altissimus (Pale dock)  Here are photos and more information from Missouri Plants.

Rumex hastatulus (Heart-wing sorrel)  Here are more photos and information from Southeastern Flora and Discover Life.

Rumex verticillatus (Swamp dock)  Here are more photos and information from Plants of Wisconsin and the New England Wildflower Society.

Below are some introduced Rumex species that sound somewhat similar to your description:

Rumex acetosella (Sheeps sorrel)  Here is more information from Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide.

Rumex conglomeratus (Sharp dock)  Here are more photos from CalPhotos, University of California-Berkeley.

Rumex longifolius (Dooryard dock)  Here are more photos and information from New England Wildflower Society.

Rumex obtusifolius (Bitter dock)  Here are more photos and information from Virgina Tech Weed Identification Guide.

If none of the plants above is the plants you are seeing and you have (or can take) photos, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Greater water dock
Rumex orbiculatus

Heart-wing sorrel
Rumex hastatulus

Swamp dock
Rumex verticillatus

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
August 14, 2009 - I am trying to identify a plant I saw this past weekend in San Diego, California. It was a low growing shrub planted along the road near a beach. The flowers looked like large star jasmine, leaves wer...
view the full question and answer

Plant identfication
April 06, 2009 - slow growing woody vine, yellow flowers, (grows butterfly shape leaves with seed in middle of it) in addition to the regular leaves.
view the full question and answer

Mystery forest plant in WV
May 21, 2012 - In the mountains of southern WV I have several acres of shady, moist land. It has never been developed and is COVERED with a low growing fern?ground cover?whatever. It creeps along on very shallow r...
view the full question and answer

Identification of daisy-like yellow flower
March 12, 2012 - Georgetown, TX - I have two flowers blooming in my field that I can't identify. One is strong gold and the other strong orange. I cannot identify the leaf pad. There are no leaves on the stem which...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 14, 2008 - I have a plant or weed that is a five leaf leave and it is greenish-red and shinny. I have been searching the internet and can't seem to find what it is. It is spread throughout my back yard an...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center