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Update 6/4/ 2017: I am so happy that the ID "Eryngium prostratum – Creeping Eryngo" was found by Lorel C., and am awarding her the bounty. I also wish that that people could please vote for Christy B.'s answer. She was very close. This plant actually turned out to be in the Eryngium genus, after all! Thank you all so much for your time and research. I appreciate ALL of the answers. Even answers that were off base helped to rule things out, as I added more info and pictures. I don't know why people "downvoted" two answers on my post. That discourages people from trying to help in the future! Please stop doing that. Thanks again, all!

You can see my original post below with the updates, and the four added pictures above the 5th and 6th pics that I had initially posted without size reference (which caused confusion):

"This tiny blue/purple flower is growing in my friend's meadow in the Richmond area of Virginia in the eastern USA. She says it has roots (not corms or bulbs)."

UPDATE: I added more pics below. The leaves that go with the flower are not the three-leaved ones, as she had told me before. I apologize for any confusion this has caused. It definitely has roots (she pulled one up). She said that the leaves were hidden beneath the other leaves. It seems to be low-creeping in habit, and is pretty widespread in this meadow. She also informed me that it mostly grows in the moister areas of the meadow that do not drain as quickly as the rest because they are lower lying. It's growing in full sun, and not near the tree line.

(Photos by Sharon McGeein)

Neither answer below is correct. But, I "liked" them for trying, anyway. Thank you.

Update: Unfortunately, I do not think that the third offered answer is along the right lines, either. (I so wish that it was!) I can't find anything in the Sanguisorba genus (let alone the Rosaceae family) that has similar stems or leaves, at all.

At this point, I think that finding the correct ID may need to be based on the leaves and stems, rather than the miniscule flowers. I don't think that you will find other pictures of these flowers out there on the internet. (I haven't found any after extensive searching.) I doubt that it is a rare plant. It's just that the flowers are so tiny (less than 1/4 inch big) that most people probably would not notice them, or take pictures.

blue flower- Photo by Sharon McGeein blue flower- Photo by Sharon McGeein blue flower- Photo by Saron McGeein blue flower- Photo by Sharon McGeein blue flower- Photo by Sharon McGeeinblue flower- Photo by Sharon McGeein

  • Has this picture been taken very recently? – Bamboo May 26 '17 at 22:38
  • @Bamboo- Yes. Within the last week. She said that the three leaves belonged to this flower. She apparently knows the ID of what the other ones in the pic are. This is a new one, to her. – Diane May 27 '17 at 0:20
  • New one to me too, I'll keep looking when I can, I'm intrigued for one thing... just how small is the flower in terms of inches or centimetres? – Bamboo May 27 '17 at 0:39
  • @ Bamboo- I am also intrigued! I hope to have an answer tomorrow about the size. It frustrates me when friends send me pics with no size reference, and ask for ID. I believe that it was very tiny. Hopefully, she can find this one again, and take better pics. I assumed that it was spread by corms or tiny bulbs, and asked her specifically about that, as well as the leaves. Also asked her to dig one up to check about that. (But, she hasn't, as of yet.) She owns a farm, and seems to know what she has growing everywhere. – Diane May 27 '17 at 1:26
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    While researching an answer to your question, I came across this amazing website "Virginia Wildflowers" run by Gloria. I looked through her website but could find no clue to an answer. However, Gloria might be happy to receive an email from you? In the meantime I'll keep researching... – andrewbuilder Jun 2 '17 at 0:54
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+50

Even though I am no type of botanist, I can't resist a good puzzle. So I decided to look into http://www.wildflowersearch.com and came up with "creeping eryngo" or Eryngium prostratum

Eryngium prostratum Note those wild looking sepals.

Now I do see that Christy B. has already proposed a sea holly, and others thought it couldn't be Eryngium at all because of the spikiness of most of those plants. However reading descriptions of E. prostratum, I feel Christy B. is on the right track. But this Eryngium looks like a softer, gentler species than the rest of them.

I confess I have never seen this plant at all but I found some more pictures of it on internet for example: https://bwwellsassociation.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/fall-wildflowers-at-rockcliff-farm/

E.prostratum at Rockcliff Farm

See the fleshy leaves approx. the correct shape? It looks like the little flowers start out white, & turn purple later. The folks at Rockcliff Farm describe it like this on their website: "Along the water’s edge were small colonies of one of the toughest plants at Falls Lake – Eryngium prostratum – Creeping Eryngo. It grows at the water’s edge, where it is battered by the waves generated by passing boats, dried and roasted by the sun when the water level drops, and submerged for days or weeks when the water level is too high. It responds by blooming 7 months of the year, from July to January. This plant is easy to miss – blooms are very small, about 1/4 in long, and the leaves are the size of a penny."

....So that's my guess. Eryngium prostratum.

  • Amazing pictures , looks like a match to me! Is there a chance this is a hybrid as well? – Christy B. Jun 4 '17 at 18:48
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    Wonderful! Looks like a match to me, too! Thank you sooo much, Lorel C. And thank you, Christy B., for being on the right track. lol Now we OCD types can sleep at night. ;) – Diane Jun 4 '17 at 20:04
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    Bravo, Lorel!! I had been searching through online wildflower ID sites but had to put my search aside to care for my elderly mom. When I came back today to resume it, I noticed new photos and was happy the OP had better ones to show ...until I realised it was your answer. Very well done. I love a good plant puzzle/mystery. If I ever get stuck, I know who to ask. ;) – Jude Jun 5 '17 at 0:23
  • Right?! This had me stumped too, and it's funny you @Diane mentioned lack of sleep BC I hop on the exchange when I can't sleep. I did an image match search at work and couldn't even find as good of a comparison. It's about time! :) So, after all this, is your friend in VA keeping these, and figuring out proper care for it, or pulling them, or just letting them grow wild in the meadow? – Christy B. Jun 5 '17 at 4:52
  • @ChristyB. lol I doubt that she is going to kill it, after she named it "Shari Lou Blue", for lack of an ID. She was thrilled to find out what it is! I don't know if she plans to do anything with it other than let it grow where it is, for now. She has very little spare time on her hands (between working and running a farm, etc.) which is why I was trying to help her out. I'll let you know if that changes. – Diane Jun 5 '17 at 19:16
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It looks likes the beginnings of blue Hobbit stikle

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  • Christy B. - Unfortunately, this plant is not a type of Eryngium planum (also known as Sea Holly), including the Blue Hobbit variety. The prickly leaves and stems of that are very different than those of this tiny flower. But, I do appreciate your trying to solve this mystery. – Diane Jun 2 '17 at 23:37
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    Christy's ID is pretty amazing. Mind blowing...unbelievable. I gave her a vote! – stormy Jun 3 '17 at 20:44
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    I've added pics above of what the leaves look like when they are sprouts and juveniles. The spikes occur as they mature. Might still be a possibility??? Check out the jags next to your ruler pic – Christy B. Jun 3 '17 at 20:57
  • I was downvoted. I find this discouraging for those who are trying to help. Someone with 79,000+ rep was downvoted too, and obviously has experience and is knowledgeable. So far everyone is guessing, and putting in their input to help, not to be stupid or put "false info" on the site. I'd like the person downvoting to post the correct answer. – Christy B. Jun 4 '17 at 16:35
  • Christy B.- I am sorry that you were downvoted by someone. It wasn't me. I just voted for you now, and hopefully others will as well, since your ID led to a more conclusive ID. I really do appreciate your help, and hope that other people vote for your answer, too. – Diane Jun 4 '17 at 20:10
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I don't have a conclusive ID for you, but maybe this will help someone else finish the job.

I am convinced this is a member of the Sanguisorba genus.

The leaves, sepals, rhizome, and flower head are very consistent with the Greater Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), but differs mostly in color and size. It's closer in size to the small burnet (Sanguisorba minor), but the leaves are too different.

I hope that helps push someone toward your answer. Good Luck!

  • Wow, I am so amazed! Love your moniker too! I think you are right...at least the Genus, species!! Thank you! How did you find this? Did you use a dichotomous key? My brain thanks you, too!! – stormy May 30 '17 at 19:32
  • Silt Loam- Thank you for your suggestion. I researched everything in the Sanguisorba genus, as well as everything in the Rosaceae family after you posted your answer. But, there are no matches for the miniscule flowers, let alone the leaves. I'm thinking that the leaves and stem may be more important for ID than the flowers, since there are probably no pics of these miniscule flowers out there on the internet. I would normally "Like" (upvote) your answer because I really do appreciate your trying. But, I don't know if that will take my offered bounty of off my post. Not sure how that works. – Diane May 31 '17 at 1:58
  • No worries about upvoting. I did start with a dichotomous key. I agree, I went through all the Sanguisorba and browsed around Rosaceae, but really couldn't make a match. It's entirely possible that it's a cultivar that somehow ended up there. Do you know if this plant is really wide spread? – Silt Loam May 31 '17 at 17:15
  • Well, kudos to you Silt Loam! I wish I had my old tome. These internet dichotomous keys are awkward. Which one do you use? – stormy Jun 3 '17 at 17:06
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How sure are you that the trifoliate leaves belong to this flower? It's just the flower resembles Pontederia lanceolata, see here https://www.rightplants4me.co.uk/content/plant?PlantID=2830&Pontederia= but that does not have leaves like the ones in your picture, and usually flowers later in the season.

Pontederia has the common name of Pickerel weed and is usually found in damp meadows or near water. I'm not 100% sure it's that, but its pretty similar.

  • why has this suggestion been downvoted, yet the Hyacinth ID has not? Whatever this plant may be, its certainly not a hyacinth. I bet I can guess who did it... – Bamboo May 26 '17 at 22:12
  • Oh I am in giggles. I think you are right, Bamboo! Who the heck would be audacious to down vote YOU? This is why I think there should be a simple line as to WHY the downvote. Just like when we edit our answers we are asked why, this would be so much more help for those that spend time and brain cells making answers. We are supposed to learn from our mistakes as well, and my goodness what a great catch for ID! This is definitely a weakness in this site! How often do you get down votes Bamboo? J. Musser has zero. Unbelievable! – stormy May 26 '17 at 23:38
  • I do not think that this ID is correct. But, I will give it a vote anyway, to negate the negative vote from someone (not me). lol Even incorrect answers help rule things out, in my opinion. ;) – Diane May 27 '17 at 0:45
  • @Diane - it isn't correct, this plant is in flower now, and Pontederia flowers later.. but so far its as near as I've got. That looks like a spent head in one of the pics, behind the flower - does your friend know if the seed capsules colour up, like small berries, and if so, red or black? – Bamboo May 27 '17 at 0:52
  • @stormy I've had a few downvotes in my time, the odd one here and there fair enough, the others not. After all, I am female, its only to be expected, unfortunately... – Bamboo May 27 '17 at 0:54
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Well I am going to go ahead and ID this flower as a Hyacinth. You should be able to transplant these guys to another bed this fall so that you can appreciate them better. They are a bulb plant, someone must have planted them long ago?

hyacinth

(source)

Amending my answer although pnuts was the first to say it; Water Hyacinth, couldn't find that tight pre flower flower but the leaves and marsh and what not, this must be correct or at least closer.

water hyacinth

(source)

Still not totally convinced. This would be a water plant adapting to the meadow. That would mean no floating bulb. This just might be a new species or variety?

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    There are other plants that perhaps she thought these flowers belonged to...I am never certain IDing stuff by pictures. Just could not imagine another flower like this at this time of year and if you look closely the proper leaves for hyacinth are there... – stormy May 26 '17 at 20:16
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    Unless my sense of perspective is shot, no way is this a hyacinth, its way too small.... – Bamboo May 26 '17 at 21:34
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    Hi stormy! I don't know what flower this is, of course, but Diane said it was not a bulb. That would mean it's not a hyacinth, right? – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL May 26 '17 at 23:42
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    There are at least 2 different plants in that picture. I didn't put much credibility in 'not a bulb'. My problem was scale. You know, looking at other sites off SE, when someone asks a question they've got a mini questionaire...to help ask questions before submitting a question...such as what zone one lives in, how to provide a picture and please provide scale in your picture. We really need that. I am wrong and Bamboo is right and she got down voted? Truly down voting needs to give some explanation so that 'trolls' don't spend their own votes down voting others. I mean...Bamboo? – stormy May 26 '17 at 23:52
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    It is definitally not a grape hyacinth! I have them in my gardens in VA. I was pretty specific in the info provided. I will ask her for a close up pic. – Diane May 27 '17 at 0:27

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