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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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Monday - July 13, 2015

From: Danbury, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Deer Resistant
Title: Identity of ball-shaped purple flower in Connecticut
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am trying to identify a ball shaped purple/light purple flower with opposite leaves that look fern like. It has been in bloom since late May or early June. I have found it growing with what appears to be birdsfoot trefoil. I would like to id the purple flower because deer are not eating it. If it is native I'd like to plant it in my flower garden. Any help you can give is greatly appreciated. PS: I did take some photos but don't see a way to upload.

ANSWER:

Unfortunately, the two flowers that I found that match your description and grow in Connecticut are non-native.

Here is one possibility, Knautia arvensis (Bluebuttons), a native of Europe and Asia.  Here are more photos and information and photos.

Another possibility is Mentha aquatica (Water mint), another non-native plant from Europe, Northern Africa and Western Asia.   Here are more photos and information.  This plant has a very strong minty scent and would be avoided by deer.

There is one native plant in the Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family) that grows in Connecticut, however, that is highly deer resistant, Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot).  Its flowers can be pink, white or lavender and it is perennial.  Here are photos and more informtion from the New England Wild Flower Society.  Additionally, it attracts butterflies.

Another native member of the Mint Family in Connecticut that is moderately deer resistant is Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm) with red blossoms.  It attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

On our Special Collections page we have a list of Deer Resistant plants.  You can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to limit the list to Connecticut to find other deer resistant plants native to Connecticut.

 

From the Image Gallery


Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

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