Plant ID? It's not marijuana.
May 15, 2016 3:35 PM   Subscribe

This plant has been showing up every year for 12 years now. I don't know what it is. Can you help me?

I live in South Dakota, USA. The plant grows in a shady part of the yard.

There is only the one plant. It dies back completely every fall, and emerges fresh every spring.

It first shows up as deep purple, but the leaves eventually turn green.

I've never seen it flower.

It gets bigger every year. This year, there are several stalks, and it is roughly knee-high.
posted by yesster to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It looks like a buckeye to me. Several members of the genus have purple leaves when they come in. I couldn't find one native to South Dakota. That plus it not flowering suggests it might be something someone planted in your yard.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:48 PM on May 15, 2016

Virginia creeper?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:50 PM on May 15, 2016

Wait -- is it wild sarsaparilla maybe?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:52 PM on May 15, 2016

The foliage looks a lot like cassava and there's some some cultivars with purple new growth but I wouldn't have guessed they could survive a Dakotan winter. Guess you could dig it up and see if there's a tuber down there.
posted by jamaro at 4:14 PM on May 15, 2016

Response by poster: Not: sarsparilla, buckeye, or virginia creeper.

Before posting, I had been leaning toward cassava, but it seems really odd that one could survive here.

Additional information: twelve years ago, when I moved into this house, I started a lot of weird plants from seeds that I had been collecting from online sources. This might be one of those. I have no memory of anything specific in that location. It is surrounded by hostas and "lily of the valley."

There are seven leaves on each frond. Though it looks like the leaf edges might be serrated, they are not. The leaves are elegantly long.

It almost looks like a scheflera, but there's no way those things can survive in this climate.

Besides wanting to know, just for the sake of knowing (who doesn't want to know things?), several people have noted that, from a few feet away, it looks like a marijuana plant. I'd like to be able to tell curious folks that, no, it isn't what it might look like, it is _________.
posted by yesster at 4:49 PM on May 15, 2016

When you say that it dies back, what do you mean? That it drops its leaves and there's a woody trunk, or that it dies all the way back?
posted by gingerest at 4:56 PM on May 15, 2016

Best answer: Seconding hydropsyche, looks like an Aesculus sapling--buckeye or horse chestnut.
posted by Ornate Rocksnail at 4:57 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: "Dies back" = there's nothing left. It emerges anew, from the ground, each spring. Emerges when the ground warms up. If we get a late spring light frost (which we just did), it seems to not be bothered at all.
posted by yesster at 5:02 PM on May 15, 2016

Response by poster: Apologies. This is exactly what it looks like.

Aesculus glabra "April Wine."

So yes, it is Buckeye.
posted by yesster at 5:06 PM on May 15, 2016

I had just about sold myself on the idea you had A. hippocastanum (because of the seven leaflets) but if it dies back, no - Aesculus species are deciduous trees, and they'll have a trunk.
posted by gingerest at 5:09 PM on May 15, 2016

Some Aesculus are shrub-like and die pretty far back every year (like sylvatica). And this one, whatever it is, is well out of its native range.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:15 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

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