Name that plant

Mystery plant?

I NEED your help solving a mystery. What on earth is this plant? I know it looks like a courgette flower, but it’s very small, about 14 inches and the leaves and stems are literally covered in quite vicious white thorns.

It was sent to me by a reader, Mr Tapp. I’m not the greatest of plant identifiers but had started to recognise more and more plants and flowers, if not the exact variety, then at least the family. But I’m stumped, and asking other gardeners for help!

I had better luck with another query: Lindsey’s tree. It’s a great big spreading thing at a house she’s only been in a couple of years and this year it has beautiful, huge white flowers all over it, which turn brown and fall off, leaving an unusual spiked ‘cone’.

magnolia grandiflora

It’s a magnolia grandiflora, and I only recognised it as I saw one at Cliveden gardens which covered an entire stately home wall! These magnolias flower in summer rather than spring, and the flowers come alongside the leaves, rather than before. They are evergreen too, which makes them ideal for a sunny wall where you can train them by trimming each year’s growth back to a healthy bud. plant. If yours has become a large tree, with the flowers out of sight above the canopy, then start to hard prune back a third of the tree this year and so on until it’s a manageable size. They can grow to 15 metres by ten wide if you don’t prune. You can see this year’s growth as it will still be green and slightly bendy. It may sulk for a season or two after hard pruning, but should recover.

Philadelphus, or Mock Orange

The next picture is philadelphus, or mock orange, emailed by “Mrs Toodles.” She said: “It looks quite dull most of the year at the back of our garden but this July it was totally covered with lots of white flowers with a strong scent.” Philadephus also need hard pruning too and flowered particularly well this year after the snowy winter.


 This “big daisy flowers with fluffy foliage” sent by Jane and James is annual cosmos. Usually sown indoors in spring and transplanted into place in May/June. There are perennial types, like the delicious chocolate cosmos.

One of the most frustrating things for the beginner gardener is not knowing what you’re actually growing. You may have inherited plants when you move house, or have lost labels or seed packets. The best thing is to get a good book, like Hessayon’s New Flower Expert, and just go through the garden comparing pictures with the real thing. Online gardening forums are great too, if you can take a snap and upload it.

It’s not been a great year for the new gardener, thanks to the drought, so don’t beat yourself up if things haven’t gone as well as you’d hoped, even the most experienced gardeners have had some disappointments this summer. It’s not you, it’s the weather!


Filed under Gardening

2 responses to “Name that plant

  1. Since this article went into the paper, I’ve had a couple of suggestions: one that it is a thorn apple, and the other that it is the horned poppy (glaucium flavum).
    I’ve tried to compare photos and come away no wiser.

  2. A further update in case you didn’t read the blog. It’s is an American invader, Buffalo-bur, or solanum rostratum.

    It’s a member of the nightshade family, solanaceae, which includes potato, aubergine and nettle, but is very, potentially fatally poisonous. It’s not uncommon but gets brought in on animal fur and in birdseed and enjoys a very dry summer, which may explain its sudden arrival.

    Many thanks to the readers who sent in suggestions, and to one who spent a long time searching Google images.

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