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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.

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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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Friday - August 02, 2013

From: Liberty, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identity of plant in South Carolina with tiny purple flowers
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I found a plant while walking my dogs. I live in South Carolina. The plant gets maybe a foot tall, has a square stem and the top of plant is a candelabra with timy purple flowers in it. What is this plant? TY

ANSWER:

A four-angled stem (square) suggests one of two plant families—Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family) or Family Verbenaceae (Verbena Family).  Since the Verbena family is smaller, let's start with it first. On our Native Plant Database page select Verbenaceae (Verbena Family) from the Family: slot in the green Search native plant database: box.  This will give you a list of 48 plants and you can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to limit the list by choosing "South Carolina" from the Select State or Province slot and then select "Blue", "Purple" and "Violet" from the Bloom Color slot.  This will limit the list to 8 species that you can scroll through.  The two from this list that look like candidates to me are:

Verbena bracteata (Bigbract verbena)

Verbena hastata (Swamp verbena)

You should do the search yourself to be sure I didn't miss a possible candidate for your plant.

If you do a similar search by choosing Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family) from the Family: slot in the green Search native plant database: box, you will get a list of 178 plants.  Using the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option described above, your list is reduced to 33 plants.  You will notice that some of the species don't have photos available (e.g., Clinopodium georgianum (Georgia calamint).  However, if you click on the link to the species and scroll to the bottom of the page to the ADDITIONAL RESOURCES area and click on the species name beside Google:, you can links to other webpages about the species that have photos.  There is one on that list that looks like a candidate to me:

Prunella vulgaris (Common selfheal)

Again, you should do the search yourself to be sure I didn't miss a likely candidate.

All the plants in our Native Plant Database are, indeed, native to North America.  If the plant you saw is a garden escapee, it is very likely an introduced cultivar and would not appear in our Native Plant Database.

If none of the plants from the above searches is your plant 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


Bigbract verbena
Verbena bracteata

Bigbract verbena
Verbena bracteata

Swamp verbena
Verbena hastata

Swamp verbena
Verbena hastata

Common selfheal
Prunella vulgaris

Common selfheal
Prunella vulgaris

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