Mystery Plant

Great Falls, VA

This plant appeared in my zone 6B garden this spring in full sun. It's about 12-18 inches tall, has a prickly stem, had a flower bud but that was eaten before it could bloom. It does not appear to be spreading but I don't know if it's something I should eradicate before it takes hold. I have stumped local Master Gardeners with it. Ideas?

Thumbnail by AKB9355
Saugerties, NY(Zone 5a)

It looks like some type of begonia, others will know for sure..

Raleigh, NC(Zone 7b)


Great Falls, VA

Astilbe crossed with a thistle maybe. Though that was one of my early guesses, the stems are prickly and the leaves are not quite astilbe. Pretty sure it's not a begonia either. Please keep the ideas coming.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

You can always isolate the plant by potting it up. Once it blooms and is identified you can decide how you want to deal with it. As long as it is not allowed to go to seed it poses no threat.

Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

It looks like a Begonia to me.

Raleigh, NC(Zone 7b)

It's not a begonia - they do not have compound leaves. Also the only common begonia hardy to zone 6b is Begonia grandis (which is clearly not the pictured plant).
Why do you think it's not an Astilbe? There are several species, hybrids and many different cultivars.[common]=&searcher[family]=&searcher[genus]=astilbe&searcher[species]=&searcher[cultivar]=&searcher[hybridizer]=&searcher[grex]=&search_prefs[blank_cultivar]=&search_prefs[sort_by]=rating&images_prefs=both&Search=Search For a better chance at ID, try protecting the plant from deer/rabbits in the spring so you can get a pic of the flowers.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Looks like astilbe to me too... leaves, buds and hairiness all match. Not a begonia.
Here's a pic to compare to, for the non-believers (scroll down to the Astilbe picture and click on it):

This message was edited Oct 2, 2012 8:40 PM

Great Falls, VA

Maybe it is an astilbe. That was my initial guess. It doesn't look like any of the varieties in my garden though. Can they self-seed or hybridize? The leaves don't seem quite right and it's stems are not just hairy, they are prickly. I sent a sample off to the VA Tech plant id lab and they didn't know either. I guess I'll protect it from the deer and see if I can figure it out next spring.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Quote from AKB9355 :
Can they self-seed or hybridize?

Yes, of course they can self-seed, and also hybridize but there's probably no need to invoke that.

Anyway, look at the flower bud.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Astilbe chinensis has prickly leaves

Great Falls, VA

I keep thinking okay I'm crazy this is an astilbe and then I go out to look at it and I think, really? IF it is an astilbe it either had to self seed from a distance, since I have no close neighbors, or it hybridized or reverted from any of the 5 or so chinensis and japonica varieties I have had in my garden for the last 10-15 years- none of which look similar to this plant. That said, I have never had a volunteer astilbe before. I concede it is probably from the Saxifrage family, a pretty big family, but still not convinced. If anyone has any other suggestions let me know, otherwise I'll try and see a flower next year and maybe that will solve it. Thanks.

Ridgecrest, CA

It does look very similar to a young astilbe; leaves, flowerbud ect..

I don't see a resemblance to Saxifrage. I agree, saxifrage is a big family, but the leaf and flower structure of saxifrage is different from your image above.

As for the possibility of astilbe seeds finding their way around your yard... astilbe seeds are very small (around 380K per oz.), so the wind or even birds/animals can help distribute seeds.

If the conditions in your garden are right, volunteer hybrid plants may appear.

(Zone 7a)

I'm firmly in the Astilbe camp. Just because one hasn't had a plant reseed itself before is no reason to think one could never have it happen. As Moon said, Astilbe chinensis is prickly and that flower spike is exactly right for Astilbe.

Great Falls, VA

Just curious- have any of you ever had volunteer astilbe?

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

I don't understand why you seem to be doubting that they are capable of reproducing from seed?

Davis, CA(Zone 9a)

An astilbe couldn't cross with a thistle. Different genus and species.

Arlington, VA


Can you help me identify this plant? I found it in my community garden plot in the Virginia Coastal Plain. It has small, heart-shaped green leaves (1-2 inches). In 3 years I have never seen it flower. The stems are square, red, and white. The stems are connected to rather large (compared to the leaves) roots which are tubers or rhizomes. The roots go pretty deep in the ground and the stems pull away very easily from the roots. The plants spread in a clumped area. I placed a lot of the roots and some of the leaves together in the photo.

Please let me know if you can help.

Thanks, Kris

Thumbnail by kristenbarney Thumbnail by kristenbarney
Bulls Gap, TN

wineberry? Rubus phoenicolasius

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Kris--I'd start a new thread for your question, it'll get more views that way and it'll save on confusion since your plant is not the same one that AKB9355 is still trying to ID.

Great Falls, VA

I know it looks like an astilbe. I know it can't cross with a thistle. :). And for reasons other than the fact I've never had a self-seeded volunteer, I still have doubts (although I'm still curious if others have had astilbe self-seed in their gardens). If it were that straight forward I would have expected, given a sample of the plant and a description, that my master gardeners and the VT plant lab would have been able to ID it. Anyone have ideas outside the box before I give up and just continue to watch it? Thanks.

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