Perilla Plant, 40th Street, Philadelphia

In Albums: Philadelphia plants herbs

A perilla plant growing in a flower bed in an urban area

Oct 23rd, 2011, by Alex Zorach

This photo shows a Perilla plant, growing wild as a weed, in a flower bed outside Saxby's Coffee, on 40th Street in Philadelphia, just south of Locust street.

Perilla, called Shiso in Japanese, has naturalized widely and grows wild throughout Philadelphia. This species has a widely variable amount of pigmentation in the leaves. There are both green and dark red cultivated forms. People often plant the dark red form because it is pleasantly ornamental. This particular plant has leaves that look plain green on the uppersides, but the undersides reveal a reddish-purple color that is reflective of the coloration of the red variety.

This plant seems to be thriving in the urban is growing amongst other plants, mostly grasses, and seems to be not only holding its own, but out-competing most of them, growing much more vigorously.

You can also view a closeup of the top of this plant.

After taking this photo, I gathered much of this plant and ate it for lunch, as a cooked green. It was delicious! When I returned a few days later, the whole bed had been cut to the ground...reinforcing that I'm not really stepping on anyone's toes by harvesting wild herbs: these plants are a resource that goes largely untapped.