Plant ID forum: Unknown for 50 years or more

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So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Jul 23, 2014 1:06 PM CST
Thumb of 2014-07-23/OldGardener/cc7117

I hope that someone can help me as I have not been able to get an identification for this plant in more than 50 years. I am unable to get a full shot as it is currently meandering through other plants but I can describe its growth habit. It grows in both shade and sun but, when in shade, the leaves become smaller (about 80% of the size shown) and darker, and the distance between the leaf nodes shorten. When planted on its own, it grows about 24-30" tall before it flops over. If it has to compete with other plants (as it is currently doing), the stems can easily become 5-6 feet long each if not longer. At a previous home, I used it as a ground cover and it filled a 750 square feet area in under 6 months so it is fairly aggressive in growth. I did keep it "mowed" to about 18" high using hedge sheers once per month and it became extremely thick. It was not, however, what I consider invasive as it never appeared elsewhere in the garden*. It is flexible in terms of water but looks its best with regular water but it is fairly drought tolerant and does just fine with a monthly soak. It is evergreen and blooms throughout the year and has an alternating leaf structure. Both my mother and I have taken cuttings to various nurseries over the years but no one has a clue (other than "some type of wandering jew"). Here are some more photos - some of them have comments added:

Thumb of 2014-07-23/OldGardener/5932e6 Thumb of 2014-07-23/OldGardener/5fc2cf
Thumb of 2014-07-23/OldGardener/58aed1 Thumb of 2014-07-23/OldGardener/cda649
Thumb of 2014-07-23/OldGardener/0677dc Thumb of 2014-07-23/OldGardener/598c4d

Any help would be appreciated!

* I was saddened that I had never taken any cuttings of this when I moved years ago as it was a reliable, rugged, carefree ground cover. Oddly enough, after it had been absent from my garden for 20 years or so, it popped back up 2 years ago. I believe it rode in with an unknown iris from my mom's house although she does not actively grow it either (and the iris piece had been at my home for a couple of years before this re-appeared). Perhaps it was a stray seed that had a very long dormancy period or ???.


"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
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terrafirma
Jul 23, 2014 1:19 PM CST
Looks very much like a Day flower...Commelina.
So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Jul 23, 2014 1:30 PM CST
I thought it could be one, also, but I could never find one that has either the more rounded leaf or is the correct height.
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Jul 23, 2014 1:39 PM CST
After doing more reading, I should add that these flowers remain open all day. They do not close by noon. Also, unlike the Commelina that I have been reading about, this is easy to eradicate. The roots do not form runners underground.
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jul 23, 2014 1:43 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

OldGardener said:no one has a clue (other than "some type of wandering jew").


It certainly is some kind of tradescantia.

The Tradescantias Database
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jul 23, 2014 1:44 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Tara's right about the Commelina. Maybe it's not a tradescantia.
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horntoad
Jul 23, 2014 2:00 PM CST
Definitely Commelina. Looks like Commelina erecta.
wildflowersoftexas.com
texasnatureonline.com


So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Jul 23, 2014 2:06 PM CST
I think she is correct, too. I am just having a tough time narrowing down which one. I see that there is a huge variation of leaf form in Commelina benghalensis but some of those labeled as that look very similar (the rounder, almost heart-shaped leaf). But they also claim that it came to Cali in the 1980's and this was here in the '60's so I don't know.
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Jul 23, 2014 2:09 PM CST
I looked at the C.erecta, too, but the leaves on it are long and narrow. But at least by knowing that it is a Commelina gives me a lot more information. I just checked the flowers and they are still most definitely open. I keep reading that the flowers of Commelina close by noon. Is this always true?
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
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terrafirma
Jul 23, 2014 2:27 PM CST
No, I don't believe it is always true. I have some here that stay open most all day, unless they are getting a bit of sun. I was thinking that the C.diffusa (?) has more rounded leaves...but I'm not really sure.

Thumbs up Thank You!
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
Jul 23, 2014 2:27 PM CST
What a beautiful little flower.
http://www.indianaturewatch.net/displayimage.php?id=24036
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horntoad
Jul 23, 2014 2:29 PM CST
It's not C. diffusa. I would say C. erecta or C. benghalensis. Is the small petal blue?
wildflowersoftexas.com
texasnatureonline.com


So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Jul 23, 2014 2:46 PM CST
The small petal is predominantly whitish (perhaps the palest of purples?) but the outer edges are outlined in blue (giving the appearance of a blue-edge). There is also a heavy blue line running down its middle.

I downloaded a list of Commelina from the USDA NRCS and I will try to work my way through it.

Lynn, I agree. I think it is beautiful, too. I was surprised to see that so many states consider it a weed but I am going to take my little weed and adore it anyway Thumbs up .

Tara, thank you for the Commelina id and thank you's to everyone for your help. ATP is amazing. We have asked nurseries off and on for 50 years and it took an ATP member all of 5 minutes to come up with the answer. That kind of says it all Thumbs up
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Jul 23, 2014 2:51 PM CST
Hurray! Hurray!
Yay for our ATP members. Definitely the place to come for information.
Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Organic Gardener Garden Sages Birds Frogs and Toads Plant Identifier
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terrafirma
Jul 23, 2014 4:21 PM CST
OldGardener, many Thank You! 's!!!

If not for all of the knowledge that I've gained right here at ATP, I probably would have been stumped by this! I'm so glad that I could help! I tip my hat to you.

ATP, and all the members truly are the best!!!!
[Last edited by terrafirma - Jul 23, 2014 4:26 PM (+)]
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Name: Linda
southern Minn. (Zone 4b)
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alwaysbehindMN
Jul 23, 2014 7:31 PM CST
I am 99.9% certain that it is commelina communis. I have it... lots of it! It is beautiful, it is invasive. Plus side: it is very easy to pull, and in my opinion, it improves the tilth of the soil where I have pulled it. It seems to co-exist quite well I suppose because of the shallow roots. I leave it alone where it is filling in an empty space that otherwise might have dandelions or creeping charley! Then if I want to plant something there, maybe a hosta in shade, or a daylily in sun, I just pull it and have this nice soil all ready to plant. A beautiful plant that I detest is lady bells, virtually impossible to get rid of, 100x worse than commelina!
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Jul 23, 2014 7:40 PM CST

Moderator

For what it is worth, Calflora indicates that there is only one species of Commelina in California, Commelina benghalensis.

USDA Plants shows another species, Commelina coelestis, but it appears to have an extremely limited distribution. It's also rather unusual looking for a dayflower:

Day Flower (Commelina coelestis)

The wikipedia entry for Commelina benghalensis says it's only been present in California since the 1980's, but you shouldn't worry too much about that. First, it's wikipedia Shrug! and, second, plants are commonly present in places for long periods of time before they are officially noted.
So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Jul 23, 2014 8:47 PM CST
I think that there must be yet another form of it in So. Cal. I went to the University of Florida, IFAS Extension and they had this information there:

• Flower color -- The flower color of many dayflower species is blue, while benghal dayflower is more purple/lavender.
• Root structure -- Unlike all other dayflower species, benghal dayflower produces underground flowers. These flowers are easily seen by examining the roots. These flowers will appear as “swollen nodes."

The Commelina in my yard is true, sky blue without any purple or lavender undertones. Also, the root structure does not sound correct as there are definitely no nodes. The FAO lists C. Benghalesis as being 10-40 cm. tall (4 to 15.75 inches). Our plant is much taller than that. Some branches are in excess of 4-5 feet.

I am very happy, though, to finally have a name for this plant. I am hopeful that, as I work my way through the list of known types, I will come across one that fits. Even if I don't discover its full name, knowing that it is a Commelina is great Thumbs up
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Jul 23, 2014 8:48 PM CST
Would it be alright if I marked this thread as solved?
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Tip Photographer Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Hibiscus
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Horntoad
Jul 23, 2014 9:02 PM CST
Bonap shows C. benghalensis, C. coelestis and C. erecta.
http://bonap.net/NAPA/TaxonMaps/Genus/County/Commelina

I am leaning toward C. benghalensis. Leaf sheaths on C. erecta are supposed to have auricles. Here is a photo of my C. erecta showing the auricles.

Thumb of 2014-07-24/Horntoad/8b22db

C. communis is not show to grow anywhere near Southern California. But to positively rule it out, check the spathe. C. communis will be seperated along the entire length, from the peduncle to the tip. C. benghalensis and C. erecta will be joined from the peduncle to about 1/3 the way to the tip. Like this photo of my C. erecta.

Thumb of 2014-07-24/Horntoad/38e248

wildflowersoftexas.com
texasnatureonline.com


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