Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support 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

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

More Plant Identification Questions

Are Brown-eyed susans and Black-eyed susans the same species?
December 02, 2014 - Are Brown eyed Susans the same as the Black-eyed Susan? I've read that they are both common names for the same plant, but the flower looks slightly different in different regions. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Plant ID in Champaign IL
May 23, 2009 - I am in search of the name of a flower. It is tall, believe on a single stem, if you ever have been in Champaign, Il it grows along the interstate near the overpasses, very pretty purple flowers. I ...
view the full question and answer

Fog fruit?
June 29, 2009 - In your native plant database listing for Phyla nodiflora one of the common names seems to be misspelled (fog instead of frog). FYI, if wrong, please let me know.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on milkweed
August 20, 2005 - I am looking for a photo of the local milkweed in the state of North Carolina. The name would be a help also. I am raising butterflies and I am in dire need of plants.
view the full question and answer

Fungi in the flower bed
October 01, 2007 - Found a strange thing in my flower bed, while tilling. It was egg shape, white, with a little purple, soft but tough like leather on the outside, with a small 2 inch root. Curiosity got me so I cut it...
view the full question and answer

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