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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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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!

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Tuesday - July 03, 2012

From: Portland, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Flower with spike of yellow flowers with hairy purple filaments
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Fuzzy purple stamens! I can't find this plant identified anywhere. Blooms abt 1" or a little more across. 5 yellow petals, 5 sepals, & 5 stamens with yellow anthers, & the filaments are covered with long purple hairs. Blooms whorled around a spike 2-4' tall, seen next to wetland & in a meadow. Blooms are quickly followed by large hard capsules. A clasping, cordate to ovate leaf beneath each flower-stem. What the heck is this lovely thing, and I hope hope hope it's native!

ANSWER:

This does sound like a beautiful plant.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find it in our Native Plant Database.  The plants that do come to mind, however, are the Verbascum species.  They are about 2 feet tall with spikes of yellow flowers.  In particular, Verbascum blattaria (moth mullein) is described as having hairy purple stamen filaments.  The flower petals can be yellow or white tinged with pink.   It is not, unfortunately, a native plant but an introduced species from Eurasia.  Its distribution includes nearly all of North America and it appears on the Colorado State List of Noxious Weeds.  There are other species of Verbascum, all introduced, that occur in North America and some even occur in Oregon, but none have the hairy purple filaments like those of V. blattaria.

 

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