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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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Thursday - August 16, 2012

From: Durham, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identity of purple flower with flowers similar to witch hazel
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Found along woods roads. Purple flower about 1 - 2 ft. in height. Central stem rises from a ground level leaf whorl of five leaves from 4 to 7 inches long and 2 to 3 inches at their widest point. Central stem is pubescent. The flower stems rise from the central stem in the base of a small leaflet or petiole. The purple flowers have a petal structure similar to native witch hazel. The flowers rise out of multiple flowerets at the teminal of the branching flower stems.

ANSWER:

Assuming that this is a native plant, I did a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database, choosing North Carolina from the Select State or Province option, "Herb" from Habit (general appearance) and "Blue", "Purple" and "Violet" from Bloom Time.  The only plants I found that somewhat matched your descriptiion were the joepyeweeds (Eupatoridelphus sp. and Eupatorium purpureum).

Eupatoriadelphus dubius (Coastal plain joepyeweed)

Eupatoriadelphus fistulosus (Trumpetweed)

Eupatoriadelphus maculatus (Joe-pye weed)

Eupatoriadelphus maculatus var. maculatus (Spotted trumpetweed)

Eupatorium purpureum (Purple joepyeweed)

Another possibility is one of the Vernonia (Ironweed) species.  There is Vernonia gigantea (Giant ironweed) and Vernonia noveboracensis (New york ironweed) in North Carolina.

You should try the search above in our Native Plant Database yourself to see if there is something I might have missed.   You could also try searching by color in the Southeastern Flora database.

Do you have photos?   If none of the plants named above is the plant you saw and you can't find it in either our database or in the Southeastern Flora database, then visit our Plant Identification page where you will find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Coastal plain joe pye weed
Eutrochium dubium

Joe-pye weed
Eutrochium fistulosum

Spotted joe-pye weed
Eutrochium maculatum

Spotted trumpetweed
Eupatoriadelphus maculatus var. maculatus

Purple joepyeweed
Eutrochium purpureum

Giant ironweed
Vernonia gigantea

New york ironweed
Vernonia noveboracensis

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