Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Suppport the plant database you love!

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - May 20, 2012

From: Oakley, CA
Region: California
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Identity of mint impersonator in California
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Is there such a thing as a mint "impersonator"? There are random 'sprigs' of purple-stemmed, bright green leaf plants in my front yard. We just moved in to the house and I don't want to assume it's mint without checking with someone first.

ANSWER:

There are lots of members of the Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family) and they all share the characteristics of a square stem and opposite, simple leaves.  Many of them are aromatic.  You can see native California members of the Family Lamiaceae if you select "Lamiaceae" from the Family: list on our Native Plant Database page and then use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH on that list to choose "California" from the Select State or Province option.  You can then see the more than 50 species listed on the list.  There are, of course, introduced members of the mint family and your description reminds me of one of those, Lamium purpureum (Purple dead-nettle), a native of Eurasia.  Here are more photos and information from Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide, Illinois Wildflowers and Connecticut Botanical Society.  The Southern Weed Science Society lists this plant on its Weeds of the United States and Canada and it is also included in T. D. Whitson's Weeds of the West

If neither this Lamium purpureum (Purple dead-nettle) nor one of the plants from the native California Lamiaceae is the plant in your yard, take photos of it and submit them to one of the plant identifcation forums for identification.   You can find links to several of these plant identification forums on our Plant Identification page.

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Problems with non-native hibiscus in Buckeye, AZ
June 26, 2009 - We have been having problems with our hibiscus plants. They are planted near 3 queen palms behind our pool. All were planted new three years ago. Early in the spring we had two just suddenly start dry...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of potted blue-green cypress
July 26, 2008 - I received a small 14" potted blue-green cypress for Christmas 2007. Kept it in a bright window, not direct sun. It was doing great until two weeks ago when it started turning brown from the center. ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Paulownia tree roots around pool in Austin
May 13, 2010 - We live in Lakeway (basically Austin) and planted a Paulownia tree in our back yard. It is growing well. However, since we planted it a couple of years ago we have put in an in-ground pool. During th...
view the full question and answer

Damaged non-native weeping willow in California
August 16, 2008 - I have a weeping willow that has no leaves and branches seems to have turned brittle. I don't see any bugs or burrows on the tree. The type of willow I have is very common in this area, although I'm...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Lavender Problem in Austin, TX
July 05, 2012 - I am having a problem with two of my lavender plants and was hoping I could send a photo of each to get your opinion. I've been growing rosemary and lavender successfully for quite sometime and am aw...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.