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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 - July 31, 2013

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

QUESTION:

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!

ANSWER:

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

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