October 14, 2017
Can you identify this plant? We live in Bella Vista and it has sprouted up rapidly this summer along the edge of our backyard just as the yard begins to descend down into the ravine. This is a place where we would really like some thick growth, but I do not want a noxious weed. Thank you for whatever help you can give us.
The plant is Perilla frutescens. The plants can be green like yours, or a deep red. There are also some improved ornamental varieties. It is in the mint family and can spread like gangbusters. You can see yours has a lot of seeds set and it will reseed itself. Some gardeners encourage it, while others try to eradicate it. If you can keep it mowed or contained on one side and let it fill the ravine it may be ok.
This purple leaf plant has a strong scent kind of like basil. It puts out a flower stalk in the fall and spreads seeds. Hundreds of plants will grow the next summer. They grow to a height up to two feet with a very strong root system. They eventually produce masses of plants. Originally, it was in a massed planting of mixed plants purchased from a nursery. It's all over the back yard and now showing up in the front flower beds. Would this be a reasonable plant to naturalize around in a woodland setting or is it an invasive plant that needs to be eradicated? It particularly likes full sun, but seems to grow just about anywhere it can get water and light.
The plant does look very much like purple basil, but it is actually perilla. Perilla frutescens is commonly called purple mint or beefsteak plant. It can be highly invasive, spreading more and more each year. It is in the mint family, so I would use caution about letting it naturalize.
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