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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

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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Sunday - August 11, 2013

From: Jackson, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Identification of tree bought from a magazine ad
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I recently submitted the following question to Ask An Expert. They were unable to identify the plant. I hope you will be able to. Can you help me by either identifying this plant or advising me as to who can? A few years ago, I ordered via magazine advertisement, what was supposed to be a purple mist tree. This is what I received instead. The plant grows approximately 3 4 feet tall, dies off in winter, than starts the process again in the Spring, beginning at the root. Thank you for your time and trouble. Sincerely, Ralph.

ANSWER:

First, our focus and expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are with plants native to North America.   Quoting the Wildflower Center Mission:

"The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes."

Second, it isn't possible to attach photos to the questions to Mr. Smarty Plants so we don't know what your tree looks like.  So, in guessing what you did order from the name you gave, maybe I will also find what you received in your order.  Here are some possibilities for the tree you ordered:

  • Maybe it is Buddleia x 'Purple Haze Lo and Behold' that I found at several nursery sites.  This one is from Nature Hills Nursery and is a non-native hybrid cultivar.

None of these trees are North American natives and certainly the tree you received is very unlikely to be a native tree or shrub either since you ordered it from a magazine ad.  Since it is unlikely that you have a native plant, we are not the people to identify it for you since our specialty is North American natives.  We do have links to several plant identificatiion forums on our Plant Identification page that will accept photos of plants for identification.  I would suggest the UBC Botanical Garden Plants: Identification as the forum to start with.   To have the best chance of identifying your tree/shrub you will need several photos:  1) the entire plant; 2) closeup photos of leaves and how the leaves are arranged on the branches;  3) photos of flowers if it is bloom—both a photo of the branch with the flower on it and a closeup of the flower;  4) fruits, if there are any on the tree.  Be sure the photos are in good focus and are high-resolution images.  Also, read "Important Notes" at the bottom of our Plant Identification page.

 

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