Ask the Experts: What Is This Plant?

A few days ago my friend Cindy sent me this photo of a mystery plant that’s been popping up around her plot in her community garden in New Jersey and we speculated about what it could be. I’ve never seen it before. It looks a little like basil but doesn’t smell or taste like it. Cindy was told by her gardening neighbors that it can be used in salad. Maybe it’s some type of lettuce?

Cindy's plant

 

Anyone have any ideas? Curious minds want to know!

Thanks for your expertise!

Michele and Cindy

8 Comments

  1. Michele–I know a number of folks who grow purple perilla in their garden and, yes, it does seed freely. Some think it’s worth managing, though, by removing the blooms before the seed matures. If you’re looking for a source, Baker Creek Heirlooms Seeds has it. Otherwise, you might be interested in ‘Magilla’ purple perilla, a stunning cultivar with a fushia pink variegation at the midrib.

  2. Purple Shiso, (Perilla frutescens nankinensis) grows like a weed here in the South. It has a musky fragrance but produces beautiful spikes of purple flower in the fall like a coleus. It reseeds to the point of being a weed! I use it as a hedge because it reaches 3 feet tall by July! There are various pictures on garden blog.

  3. Thanks to you all for your insight and solving the mystery! I’m thinking of pulling some, but leaving some to see what the flower looks like. I do have a garden neighbor who is Asian and I know that she grows some Asian plants. I will look more closely in her garden to see if it might have been the source. Happy gardening!

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