unknown sumac-like shrubs with purple blooms

dirtgirl(So. Illinois)May 13, 2010

I get a big fat F on my report card for this one. Not for not knowing what it is--I'm surrounded by familiar yet unknowns--but for not noticing it in my environment until the things flowered. I've never seen this plant before-ever-and the only examples that i'm currently aware of are about a half mile from where I'm sitting , where the floodwater got up out of the creekbed next to the road. I've become gunshy of strange things that wash up out of that creek...air potato, phragmites, bush honeysuckle, poison hemlock...

WHen I first spotted them I thought, weird, those sumac bushes have berries that somehow survived the winter. But I jumped the ditch for a better look and no, these are FLOWER SPIKES and they are the color of grape Kool Aid. The plants are surely a legume, have very mimosa-or-locust-like foliage, and the flowers resemble skinny purple wisteria blooms turned upside down. At a distance it really does resemble sumac both with the flower clusters pointing skyward from the ends of the branches, and with its habit of what appears to be suckering off a main stem or perhaps where a pod fell containing multiple seeds. I haven't seen the plant in great numbers, but where it is growing it is in a cluster of 2-5 "trunks". Again, think sumac. They are very woody, almost like saplings, and the average height is just over my head at 6 feet. THe first two to three feet of woody "trunk" is free of branches.

When I cut the one branch to bring home for reference it wilted pretty quickly, which might be either a sensitivity in the leaves (like some legumes exhibit) or else that this plant simply loses its turgidity pretty quickly once cut. The branches are thornless, but if someone were to remove the flowering growth and just show me the branch I would guess it was a young locust tree at first glance.

I could get a picture if nobody guesses this right off the bat.

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lycopus(z5 NY)

My first thought when I read purple spikes and wisteria-like flowers was Apios americana, or Groundnut.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 10:46PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

Did some more hunting around and think I have a match.
check this: desert false indigo

http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlarge=0000+0000+1201+0446

looks like a dead ringer but I still need to read though the literature to see if it's aggressive in southern Illinois...what little Ive read so far indicates it can be a problem in some areas but maybe that does not apply here.
Wonder where it came from? Sometimes the seedbank is an incredible thing. The watershed I'm on has its headwaters fairly close to us, within say, 4 miles. Seen plenty of Baptisia lactea but this is new.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 12:20AM
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karyn1(7a)

Apios americana doesn't have purple blooms.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 7:00AM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

Purple-brown, same difference. Notice that my suggestion is the same color as the OP's plant.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 10:10AM
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