Weed Identification Guide

This is a guide to some common weeds in the average north London garden. I took the first set of photos August 2010 and have been adding to them on and off ever since. 

I don't know exactly why I like knowing the names of the weeds I find. It doesn't help control them but maybe it makes me feel more in control.

The weeds (in alphabetical order) followed by my unknown plants and weeds at the bottom.

I've put the self-seeding plants on the Plant Identification page.

The following 3 images are all Annual Mercury. Last year I had it all over my front garden, as did my neighbour but after I weeded my garden and her garden well it didn't bloom and set seed so have much less this summer. Annual, easy to pull out.

annual mercury


I include it to help those that may find it growing from self-seeding. Sometimes they get invasive and are pulled up as weeds. I like them because they bloom early before other plants have started. I will try to find ano photo of it in bloom. Annual, can be difficult to pull out - quite strong roots.


Here are some aquilegia in bloom.


To the right of the aquilegia is a stachys byzantina, or lambs ear which self-seeds like mad so you may find it springing up like a weed in your garden.


This is Morning Glory. I include it to distinguish it from bindweed which follows. They are very similar. (to the right are the Honesty seed pods)

Bindweed, white flowers similar to morning glory. Easy to pull out at ground level but must be untangled from the plant(s) it has twisted around.


These may be nice in a wood but in my garden they are very annoying. They form large clumps that prevent other plants from growing. They are perennials that grow from bulbs and must be dug out. I try to do that whenever I find them. This photo was taken after this bluebell finished blooming. The stem of spent flowers is on the left.


bluebell flowers end of March (following 2 photos)

bluebell flower


I wasn't sure if these were bluebells or pendulous sedge, or indeed something else. So I thought I would dig them up to be sure.

They are bluebells! with those white bulbs underground.


Then I had a horrific thought. What if all these are bluebells as well. I sort've thought they might be hyacinths - but the hyacinths are already in bloom whereas these are all leaves. I decided to "go for it" and dig them up as well (this is my main flower bed in the sun, above is a shady less important part of the garden).

They are also bluebells, with the white bulbous roots.



Here's a bluebell with a flower coming into bloom


This is one that got away! I've been weeding them out like mad but missed this one which has gotten to be 46 cm high.


At the bottom of the stem is a new flower emerging.


Bluebells do come in different colours, white on the far left, then pink, then shades of purple and blue.

bluebell colours


Perennial with tough spreading roots which must be dug out and even then difficult to get all of it as it spreads so far.


Bristly Oxtongue

I don't know how wide-spread this is. Unlike most weeds I've listed here, I did not see this in my garden. I saw this on holiday in West Sussex

Buddleja. It may appear as a weed as it can self-seed and sprout up anywhere. Often seen on buildings, roofs, etc. and can cause damage, eg growing through a brick wall. Must be dug out or just cut above ground level if the roots have spread.

I'm adding another photo of a buddleja I noticed growing in the wall of a house around the corner from me. I guess the seed blew into one of the damp course holes in this wall (I assume that's what they are). This example shows how these buddleja take root anywhere.


This buddleja suddenly appeared in the pot below..


Buddleja flowers

buddleja flowers

This campanula has attractive blue flowers but I guess it might get invasive and be considered a weed. I just pulled a clump out that was smothering my lily of the valley. Here's a clump that's taken hold on my path. I will add another photo when it's in bloom.


campanula flower

campanula flower

Caper Spurge (a type of Euphorbia)

Cat's Ear

Centaurea Nigra (Lesser Knapweed)

I planted this as a wildflower but I guess in some circles it's considered a weed. 

centaurea nigra (lesser knapweed)

Centaurea Montana

This is really a plant identification but I wanted to put the two centaureas together so they're both here. This centaurea and the one above really do look quite similar.

centaurea montana

Thanks to Tina who sent me this photo of celandine in her garden as I don't have any in mine. This is one of those "weeds" that some people love but others pull out as a weed.



Annual, easy to pull out.

Cleavers, also known as goose grass. Annual, easy to pull out.

goosegrass/cleavers seedling


I've been told this is Coltsfoot and possibly invasive. I've not seen it before. It suddenly appeared in the garden next door. I think I'll leave it until it flowers, presumably next spring, and see what happens and what the flowers look like. On the left is the coltsfoot, on the right a hollyhock and on the left and spreading through underneath is pellitory of the wall.

a couple weeks later, the strikingly coloured stems are more pronounced

The Coltsfoot is in bloom (March 2014).


The next day the flowers are fully open.


Suddenly the coltsfoot has gone mad - numerous stems and flowers, including dandelion-like  ones ready to blow seeds everywhere so I've put it straight into the garden waste bag, not even taking time for a pic before I did it in case any of those seeds got away.


Common Knotgrass

common knotgrass

Common Orache (atriplex patula)

Corydalis Lutea, grown as a garden plant but I pull it up as a weed as it self-seeds around my garden, including on walls, and I don't really like it. Easy to pull out.

corydalis lutea

Couch Grass. Spreads but can be pulled out at the base.

This is the couch grass flower

couch grass flower

Creeping Buttercup

If left, creeping buttercup soon spreads and gets more and more difficult to pull out. The first one below I tried to pull out with the roots but it just broke off. It was developed enough to have bloomed.

creeping buttercup flower

creeping buttercup

As below you can see these creeping buttercup have multiple stems and they make a very difficult plant to pull out but it's worth trying to get the whole clump.

creeping buttercup

Dandelion tough roots that must be dug out.


Dockweed (or just Dock)

I'm seeing a lot of this this recently whereas before I didn't seem to see too much of it. I think it has to be dug out but I haven't removed many plants. The first pic is a large plant in a neighbour's garden which is probably responsible for the seeds blowing over to our gardens.


This second pic shows a much smaller plant (2 large leaves at the front) and interestingly some other weeds, back, right creeping buttercup, centre right stinging nettle and couch grass at the front and in the middle.


This third image of dockweed (from another neighbour's garden) is of a plant between the other two in size.  The tall plant to the right is a teasel.


This fourth pic of dockweed shows a close-up of the flowers and how differently shaped are the upper leaves on the plant in contrast with the large lower leaves.


The following 3 photos are Enchanters Nightshade. Annual, easy to pull out, see below how all the roots have come out when it's pulled up.


If you have to have a weed it's great to have one like this where the entire root comes out.

Here are the earliest seedlings of Enchanter's Nightshade.



enchanter's nightshade


enchater's nightshade


The following 3 pics are Fat hen. I had so many of these seedlings in a seed tray I thought they were maybe something I'd planted but as they grew they became recognisable. Annual, easy to pull out.

I found this first one today (8-9-2013) and I don't think I've ever seen a specimen of fat hen with so many flowers and so tall. I didn't measure it but it must be close to 20 cm tall.

fat hen

fat hen seedling

Feverfew, a herb but it can sprout up like a weed. Easy to pull out.

Feverfew flower

feverfew flower

Forget-Me-Not, blooms very early in the spring, I guess this is next year's crop. I let them grow until they get invasive and compete with other plants then I pull them out. Easy to pull out.

Here are some forget-me-nots later in the season after they have bloomed. A weed or welcome flower, your choice.



I grow these from seed but there are always some that sprout up unexpectedly from self-seeding as this one did. They are a wonderful flower but not if they sprout up in the wrong place.

foxglove flower

This foxglove self-seeded in my neighbours' brick wall. I love foxgloves but this one is in the wrong, potentially damaging, position.


Geranium: Shiny Geranium or Dovefoot Geranium

At first I thought this was creeping buttercup but then saw it identified as a type of hardy geranium, two were mentioned, shiny or dovefoot. I'm not sure which this is so I'm going to see what happens, how the flower turns out, etc.

creeping buttercup

plant a month later

geranium weed

I love Green Alkanet with its beautiful blue flowers in bloom very early in the spring, although some may consider it a weed. It looks similar to foxglove, just above. An easy way to tell the difference is to feel the leaves. The alkanet has stinging rough hairs whereas the foxglove is very smooth and soft. Easy to pull out.

green alkanet without its distinctive blue flowers

green alkanet

Ground Elder. Perennial, must be dug out, including every piece of root which will grow if left. I did have it over half the garden but I don't seem to have any now after digging it out and repeating whenever I see any which is what Bob Flowerdew recommends. Eventually it weakens the plant. It took a few years but it worked.

ground elder "seedling"

I thought I had completely eradicated ground elder but found a couple little sprouts.

ground elder

ground elder

This last pic here shows the ground elder with the roots after I dug it up. I got most of it but some definitely broke off. I'm sure it will come back but I must keep digging it up whenever I see it.

ground elder


Annual easy to pull out.

Hogweed and Hairy Bittercress, below, also see next 2 entries.

The following is hairy bittercress. At first it's quite low-growing, a small clump on the ground (see hogweed pic above) but then the flower stems shoot up as below. Annual, easy to pull out.

hairy bittercress

I don't think the photo below is the best one to identify this weed with (will look out for a better one). I guess one problem with identifying hairy bittercress is how different the mature plant is from the seedling. The seedling is quite flat on the ground and then suddenly a stem shoots up from the centre. The stems are quite prominent below but the base is not clear. Will look out for a better example.

hairy bittercress seedlings

hairy bittercress seedling

hairy bittercress

hairy bittercress

The following 3 photos show Herb Robert. Some people grow it as a garden plant. Personally I can't bear it and pull it out wherever I find it. Annual, easy to pull out.


And here is herb robert in bloom. Some people like it as a flower. I pull it up as a weed wherever I find it.

herb robert in bloom

The following two images are hogweed. I collected the seed as a wildflower but not sure it's good for a small garden so disposed of it (very small hairy bittercress in the ground to the left of the pots).

This Honesty (Lunaria, larger heart-shaped leaves) is another plant that self-seeds. I let it grow because I like it but some may pull it out. It blooms early with the aquilegia and alkanet before other plants. The dried seedheads can be seen to the right of the morning glory above. Easy to pull out.

I saw this lunaria today (18-1-2014) and thought it would be worth capturing the texture of the leaves and now that I've put the photo here I see how different the texture looks from the one above. Bottom centre here is green alkanet. The one on the right is underneath is teasel. Of course at the top is ivy.


Honesty flower

honesty flower

honesty seed pods, initially green they will turn brown and papery, these "coins" give the plant its other name, the money plant

Horseweed (Conyza canadensis)

tall annual weed with small white flowers


I've been trying to identify this since the beginning of my quest to identify weeds and I think I've finally done it. This one was on the patio where I was staying on holiday on the southcoast so it's been getting a lot of heat and sun so it has lots of flower buds. I've got 2 growing in my garden awaitng the flowers to emerge so I could identify it and they have only smaller clumps of flowers right at the top but then they haven't been growing in the best conditions like this one. They are so tall and growing amidst other flowers they are difficult to photograph showing both the leaves and the flower buds but when at least one fully blooms I will pull them out and photograph them on their own like this one.

This horseweed grew next door very quickly. I don't know why the ones in my back garden are taking so long.


Horseweed seedlings, looking very different from the adult plant


horseweed seedlings

Iris foetidissima

This is another self-seeder and it can make rather large clumps. It's useful in shady areas where it's difficult to get things to grow but it can also get invasive and weed-like. Difficult to pull out.

iris foetidissima

Iris foetidissima flower

iris foetidissima

Iris foetidissima seed pods

iris foetidissima seed pods

Ivy-Leaved Toadflax

This was taken beginning of April, when the flowers appeared.

ivy-leaved toadflax

Lamium maculatum (spotted dead nettle)

Thank you to Gary who alerted me to lamium. I then coincidentally saw this in my back garden. There do seem to be lots of varieties of lamium so I must look out for the flowers when they appear to confirm which type I have here.


Liverwort (Marchantiophyta)

This is a moss-like weed that has appeared in some seed trays.



I read somewhere recently about this being a weed but I sowed it myself as a wildflower from seed.  I took this pic on June 11th and it's not in bloom yet. Will add a pic when it is and also look for pics I might have of it in bloom from last year.

beginning of July and I see my first mallow flower


This is a maple seedling. For some reason I have masses of them this spring (2012). I wasn't sure what they were, as I never noticed them before, until I found this one with the seedpod (whirligig) still attached.

maple seedling

Here's a larger one.

maple seedling

This is it after I've pulled it out of the ground which gets more difficult as they get larger. I just about managed this one as the ground was wet.

maple seedling


Thank you to reader Digeroo who has identified this as mugwort There were two of these so I left one and pulled out one. I'd like to take another pic of it when it blooms.

mugwort flower, I don't know if this is fully in bloom or if each of the small "buds" are going to open, I sure want to catch any seeds before they're let loose so I will keep an eye on these

mugwort flower


This is in the weed garden (my neighbour's garden that was full of weeds, see blog on home page) and unfortunately not the best pic; I will have to try again. I was starting to research it and I finally remembered my neighbour said it had purple flowers . . . red berries, purple flowers . . . nightshade! but I'm not sure which one.


This nightshade has white flowers rather than purple. I saw it growing along Regents Canal nearby. Note the green (and black) berries on this plant.


The plant below has suddenly appeared in the garden next door. I think it's another nightshade but I'm not certain. I'm going to leave it until it blooms (and produces berries) to verify what it is.

Nipplewort, early July I see lots in flower (see example below), annual, easy to pull up

Here's a (what I think is) a nipplewort seedling mid-April. In my efforts to show the earliest seedlings I wanted to show this. If we can identify these very early seedlings we can weed them out before they get established, but most importantly before they set seed.

nipplewort seedling

nipplewort flower



Spreads so can be difficult to get all the parts but if traced can be easily pulled out.

Ox-eye Daisy

another plant I sowed from seed as a wildflower but it can get invasive


ox-eye daisy

Ox-eye daisy seedling

This is my first year of these self-seeding. They do look quite prolific.

ox-eye daisy

Pale Smartweed, Pale Persicaria

I just had the one plant a while ago. I can't remember how easy or difficult it was to pull up.

Pellitory of the Wall. Large clumps which must be pulled out at ground level which can be difficult.

Pendulous Sedge

Small plants, surprisingly easy to pull out - until they turn into larger clumps that must be dug up. Most of the time they are just upright leaves but in the summer (?) they have catkins (not sure what else you call these). NB they look exactly like some of the nutsedge images I've seen. Unless they have the catkins or the flowers I don't know how you tell them apart.


when the sedge is small like the example on the left below it's easy to pull out but when it gets as large as the clump on the right below it needs to be dug out which I did on this clump

carex or pendulous sedge

Petty Spurge

Annual, easy to pull out.

commonly called Plantain but the official name is Plantago. Cannot be pulled out, must be dug up.

Just saw this specimen today (8-9-2013) which has such well-developed flower spikes, unlike the usual scraggly specimens such as the one above.


Below was one of my unknown weeds/plants but as it's grown I see it's a plantain (Plantago), same as the above.

plantain plantago

Poppy, not necessarily a weed but as it self-seeds it can pop up in the garden like a weed  (in the middle, surrounded by teasel and strawberry)

and here is a poppy in flower

Ragwort (Senecio Jacobaea)


Ribwort Plantain

(there's another weed there towards the bottom, slightly to the right)

ribwort plantain

Rosebay Willowherb. Easy to pull out.

Rosebay Willowherb flower

rosebay willowherb

rosebay willowherb seedlings

rosebay willowherb

Sheep's Sorrel

I think I've finally found a match for this. It's difficult to say for sure as it's hard to find a really clear pic but this is a very close match from what I can see.

Smooth sow thistle

Annual, easy to pull out (do look at the seedlings below as well).

smooth sow thistle

smooth sow thistle

smooth sow thistle

smooth sow thistle

Smooth sow thistle leaf

Smooth Sow Thistle

I suddenly noticed this smooth sow thistle (right, below) after a week away. The shorter one (left, below) was growing near it. What I found interesting is the shorter one I was able to pull out the roots but the taller one was that much more established, the stem broke off leaving the roots in the ground, so although I said smooth sow thistle was easy to pull out - it can be more difficult!

Smooth Sow Thistle seedlings

smooth sow thistle

The following photo shows this plant just as it's developing and making it clearer it is indeed smooth sow thistle. I don't know if that is obvious from the photo but it is in person. I saw loads of seedlings like the one above recently and didn't even realize it was smooth sow thistle but I think I understand how this plant develops and changes much more now.

smooth sow thistle

smooth sow thistle

Stinging Nettles

Do beware of these. I have a very painful reaction to this which lasts 12 hours. I don't recall reacting so badly in the past but I've become more sensitive to it so now I wear gloves to weed it and am more careful to avoid touching it. Perennial with tough roots which must be dug out.

another stinging nettle

stinging nettle

stinging nettle flowers

stinging nettle with flowers

Sweet Rocket

a wild flower or a "weed", this one has self-seeded on my brick wall, I like this flower but not in this place

sweet rocket (hesperis matronalis)

This is a Teasel which can be a weed but I grew these as wildflowers for bees and birds. It's a biennial so I planted these last summer. First pic is flowers in bloom, next is after the seed heads have dried out and the third is a teasel plant the first year. Tough plant that must be dug out if not wanted.

Teasel, first year

Teasel seedling

I wasn't sure what the seedlings on the left were but the detail on the centre leaves is just beginning to show the blisters as on the larger teasel seedlings to the right so I think they are also teasel seedlings but I will leave them to see how they develop.

teasel seedling



Being short-sighted I didn't see what this weed was until yesterday when I went over to my neighbour's to have a lookat it. It's an enormous thistle. I love thistles (even though some people consider them weeds) and tried to find "wildflower" seeds a few years ago and collected wild seed as well. I got very few specimens considering they were "weeds" which should grow anywhere. Now suddenly this amazing plant has sprouted up nearby, I guess because it's an undisturbed patch of ground (which I think of as a weed garden).  I do have a smaller thistle in my garden (pictured below).


Thistle flowers

thistle in flower

Thistle seedlings

thistle seedlings

Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)

I've been cutting off the leaves of this tree for years. I thought I had finally killed it but I recently found this small shoot. I had wanted to include it in my weed guide but I think I'v been too successful in eradicating it. I may have a pic of it in the background of something else (I'll check).  This grows everywhere like buddleja.

Tree of Heaven

Verbascum seedling?

I'm wondering if this is a verbascum plant because of the unique pattern on the leaves. I'm going to keep it and see how it develops so I can confirm that.

Verbascum young plant


Verbascum flower

This is one of those "weeds" that has self-seeded in the garden.



These spring up lots of places, usually without the flowers which at least provide some interest. I'll try to note how long they last. April 2014 front garden. Most of the year this looks like a weed but it does flower with "violet" flowers. The thing these self-seeders that turn into weeds seem to have in common is their ability to root anywhere.


Another plant after the flowers have finished, May 2013 back garden.


Wall Weeds

I've noticed recently how some weeds are so adept at seeding in a wall, which helps them be so annoying. Below are pellitory of the wall (back) and corydalis lutea (front), both of which I picture elsewhere. Also sprouting in walls recently are foxglove and sweet rocket, also pictured elsewhere.

wall weeds


most of these seedlings are willows that have self-seeded, they have a distinctive red tint (that tall one on the left is snapdragon)

a month later, end of July

This is Wood Avens. I wasn't sure if it was a weed or a plant but apparently it has an RHS AGM (for those that like it, personally I hate it). I think it has a yellow flower. I haven't let one bloom for a while. I'll leave one and take a pic of the flower. Easy to pull out at the base.

I noticed today (mid-June) that the wood avens were in bloom The following 3 photos show the wood avens flowers.

wood avens

wood avens

wood avens

One thing I've recently realised about wood avens is that the young, first leaves at the bottom of the plant are differently shaped from the older leaves at the top. I guess I thought all the leaves on a plant were one shape. Realising this helps in identifying weeds. I didn't realise that the plant below and the plant above are both wood avens but obviously the leaves are completely different.

A young wood avens some weeks later.

young wood avens

Some weeks later, differently shaped leaves at the top of the plant.

wood avens

Unknown weeds

This looks quite familiar but I just can't place it. I will leave it and see how it develops (March 2014).


Dandelion-like weed

This is very dandelion-like weed I saw growing on the south coast while on holiday but it's not a dandelion. It looks familiar but I can't remember exactly what it is. Will need to research it further. It looks similar to autumn hawkbit but I'm not sure it's that.

dandelion-like weeds

Below is a weed I found growing on the brick wall in my garden (14-1-2014). It is also rather dandelion-like.

I thought it would be difficult to pull this off but it came right off, below, with the stem breaking right off, see the "stump" on the right.

Here are two more "dandelions" I saw today (14-1-2014). Silly of me to try but I was too lazy to go get a trowel, I attempted to just pull them up. The weed on the left came right up with a complete root. The real dandelion on the right, of course wouldn't pull up, as you'd expect. The root broke off and stayed in the ground. So for that reason alone I'm sure the weed on the  left is not a dandelion (it's a smooth sow thistle) and the one on the right is a dandelion.


Below, I thought it would be useful to compare the leaves on the dandelion-like weeds, left to right, a leaf from the weed on the wall above, the other dandelion-like weed I found yesterday (smooth sow thistle) above and a bog-standard dandelion.

dandelion leaves

I just noticed this one today (August 22nd). I don't recall seeing it before. -later- it looks like a photo I just saw of ragweed so I think it may be that

If this is a weed it isn't one of my usual. Again, I'm curious so will leave it to see what happens. A slug or snail has eaten half of this now so probably not a weed after all.

I took this out of a seed tray and repotted it so I can see what happens with this one.

I saw these along the nearby canal but haven't identified them yet.


Saw this on holiday. I think it's reseda luteola (dyer's rocket).










I'm not sure what this is. Not even sure it's a weed.

Two different things that have appeared in pots of seeds.

Of a whole seed tray, this was the only thing growing! I will leave it and see what happens with it.

This is looking like a smooth sow thistle but if it is I didn't know they came in this reddish bronze colour. Will try to research that.

another example next door, well two counting the little one on the right

smooth sow thistle ?



This is quite bramble-like but it isn't the usual bramble I know.

-later- Yesterday at the garden centre I saw Verbena Bonariensis that looked exactly like this (next photo). I had bought a couple of plants a few years ago but they died. Maybe this self-seeded from those. I had them only a short time so didn't remember what they looked like. Before I saw the verbena bonariensis I wondered about mint but I can ignore that possibility now but I have taken a pic and added it to my Plant Identification.

Verbena Bonariensis from the garden centre

verbena bonariensis