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

 
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Wednesday - June 19, 2013

From: Keller, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of purple wildflower shaped like a bottle rocket
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Smarty Plants, the other day while driving north on 281 from San Antonio I noticed a purple wildflower that was shaped sort of like a bottle rocket, seemed to have leaves similar to verbena and smelled like licorice(!?!). It was about 14 inches tall. What could this be? Is it a type of wild verbena? I am new to the state and eager to learn as much about native wildflowers and plants as possible. I did take a photo and can submit that if it would help if you give me an email address. Thanks!

ANSWER:

There are two sets of flowers that match your description fairly well.   First, there are ones in the Genus Monarda, members of the Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family).  They bloom in May, June and July.   The following species grow in or adjacent to Bexar County:

Monarda citriodora (Lemon beebalm)  Here are more photographs and information from Image Archive of Central Texas Plants, University of Texas.

Monarda clinopodioides (Basil beebalm)

Monarda punctata (Spotted beebalm)  Here are more photographs and information from Alabama Plants.

The other set of plants that meet your descriptioin are ones in the Genus Liatris, members of the Family Asteraceae (Aster Family.   They normally bloom in August, September and October.  The following species grow in or adjacent to Bexar County:

Liatris elegans (Blazing star)  Here are more photos and information from Southeastern Flora.

Liatris mucronata (Cusp gayfeather)  Here are more photos and information from Image Archive of Central Texas Plants, University of Texas.

Liatris punctata (Dotted blazing star)  Here are more photos and information from Montana Plant Life.

Then, we have the Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida (Prairie verbena) and Salvia farinacea (Mealy blue sage).

Finally, there is the endangered Streptanthus bracteatus (Bracted jewelflower). Here are more photos and information from the Center for Plant Conservation.

If none of the flowers I've suggested is the one you saw, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Lemon beebalm
Monarda citriodora

Basil beebalm
Monarda clinopodioides

Spotted beebalm
Monarda punctata

Pink-scale blazing star
Liatris elegans

Texas liatris
Liatris punctata var. mucronata

Dotted blazing star
Liatris punctata

Prairie verbena
Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida

Mealy blue sage
Salvia farinacea

Bracted twistflower
Streptanthus bracteatus

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