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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - July 31, 2013

From: Buffalo, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of shrub with pink catalpa-like flowers
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Ironically, this plant is growing on a hill behind a nursery. We are all curious what it could be..I've done internet searches for 2 days. My best guess is that it's in the catalpa family, but it's more of a shrub, and the flowers are pink, not white. The owner of the garden center shared it on another site, they are stumped as well! Thank you so much for your assistance!


Since the catalpas are members of the Family Bignoniaceae (Trumpet Creeper Family), we will look there first.  The native ones that occur in New York are:

Catalpa bignonioides (Southern catalpa)

Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper)

Catalpa speciosa (Northern catalpa)

There is also an introduced species from China, Catalpa ovata (Chinese catalpa), reported as occurring in New York.  Here are more photos and information from Shelmerdine Winnipeg Garden Center.

Another Bignoniaceae that sounds a bit like your mystery plant but doesn't naturally occur any where near New York is Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow),  Here is a distribution map from the USDA Plants Database.  Since the Plant Hardiness Zone for the desert willow is 7 and Buffalo's Plant Hardiness Zone is 6a, it is very unlikely that this plant could survive there.

We can do a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database, choosing "New York" in the Select State or Province slot, "Shrub" from Habit (general appearance) and "Pink" from Bloom Color and look through the resulting list of 58 plants.  We can also do the same search but substitute "Herb" for "Shrub".   This list will have 193 plants to scroll through.

Here are a few from the "Herb" lists that you should take a look at:

Agalinis fasciculata (Beach false foxglove)  

Agalinis paupercula var. borealis (Smallflower false foxglove) and Agalinis paupercula var. paupercula (Smallflower false foxglove) here are more photos and information from Go Botany.

Agalinis setacea (Threadleaf false foxglove)

Agalinis tenuifolia (Slenderleaf false foxglove)

Here are more photographs of several different species of Agalinis from North Carolina Wildflowers, Shrubs, & Trees.

Apocynum androsaemifolium (Spreading dogbane) and here are more photos and information from Connecticut Wildflower.

 Proboscidea louisianica (Devil's claw) and here are more photos and information from Go Botany.

An introduced relative of Proboscidea louisianicaSesemum orientale (Sesame)—also occurs in New York.  Here are more photos from Southwest Environmental Information Network.

If none of these are the plant you saw, you should do the two searches described above and look through the photos of the plants to see if I have missed any likely suspects.

If you do that and you find nothing that looks like your plant and you have photos, please visit our Plant Identification to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.


From the Image Gallery

Southern catalpa
Catalpa bignonioides

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Northern catalpa
Catalpa speciosa

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Alpine azalea
Loiseleuria procumbens

Beach false foxglove
Agalinis fasciculata

Threadleaf false foxglove
Agalinis setacea

Slenderleaf false foxglove
Agalinis tenuifolia

Spreading dogbane
Apocynum androsaemifolium

Louisiana devil's-claw
Proboscidea louisianica

More Plant Identification Questions

Identification of vine in Louisiana
July 06, 2011 - I have two vines in my backyard. I've looked at pictures of each and they both keep coming up "virginia creeper." However, both are different. Neither causes an allergic reaction. One has leaflets ...
view the full question and answer

Flowering vine with yellow flowers in Nevada
August 10, 2014 - A flowering vine started growing in our Henderson back yard about 2 months ago. It has variegated green leaves & yellow flowers. We decided not to pull it out & now it's spreading. I've looked on v...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of shrub with thorns and purple flowers
July 05, 2011 - I have a small tree or shrub, it has very small or thin thorns on the branches. It blooms in April / May. The flowers are purple. My mother-in-law said that it has been around for over 100 years, b...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of conifer-like low plant in Alabama
September 27, 2011 - When walking in woods of Alabama we found a plant that grows along the ground. looks like a conifer about 2 or 3 inches tall, has a trailing vine under the leaves and pops up little sprigs of greener...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
April 16, 2009 - There is a plant growing on the side of the road near my home. The stalk of it is thistle like with many prickles. The flower on it is white and has 6 petals.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center