Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Identification of plant known as mosquito plant (Agastache cana)
October 11, 2007 - I received some seeds from an annual plant that came from Bowie, Tx. It has square stems, like mint plants, medium size leaves turns purple when in the sun and had a strong odor when brushed against. ...
view the full question and answer

Need Plant Identification from Bon Aqua, Tennessee?
September 01, 2010 - By a creek, I found a plant that I have never seen in my life. It has a tall stalk and has leaves like a weed or grass, and the flower looks like a pine tree. The plant looks like a mix of a grass, a...
view the full question and answer

Identification of strange dark green blobs
February 03, 2012 - In my back yard I have a type of plant with no roots only around in the summer and when it rains. It looks like a person took a piece lettuce and put way too much water into it and wadded it up. It ...
view the full question and answer

Identity of tree in South Carolina
August 18, 2015 - I don't know if this is native as I'm new to South Carolina. This is a tree about 40' tall. The leaves are trilobal, 10" to a foot across/long and are trilobal, not glossy and have big veins. T...
view the full question and answer

Identification of blue wildflower on roadsides in Massachusetts
July 28, 2012 - What is the blue wildflower planted on roadsides and highways in Massachusetts?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.