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.

I've put the unknown plants at the bottom of the Plant Identification page - some may well turn out to be weeds/unwelcome plants but with two identification pages it makes sense to only have one unknown section. I've also moved the south coast plants/weeds to their own 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. Annual, can be difficult to pull out - quite strong roots. Various coloured flowers.


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.


aquilegia seedling, they have these rosettes of leaves which unfurl as they grow - very attractive

aquilegia seedling

aquilegia with powdery mildew which they seem prone to

aquilegia with mildew


the plants with the long thin leaves amongst the chinese lanterns, not sure what variety of aster this is, one that self-seeds and looks rather weed-like, will add pics of their flowers when in bloom


aster flowers, they've taken what seems a long time to bloom, it's mid-September


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 (see also field 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.


It can be quite long as it tangles around something, even itself. The flowers were 5.5 to 6 cm long on this one.


closer view of the leaves

Black Bryony

Thank you to Freda and Les who alerted me to this and provided the photos. They have read that the berries and tubers are both poisonous so beware.

black byrony

a close-up of the heart-shaped leaf

black byrony

a close-up of the flowers

black byrony

black byrony


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. There are over 400 types of bramble in the UK (according to one of my wildflower books) so it makes sense I have a couple of types. The second one has finally bloomed and produced berries (it can be so difficult to ignore weeds waiting for them to flower, I've been itching to take the secateurs to them).

this is one type, in my front garden, which I think of as the usual wide-spread type of bramble, blackberry-type berries


here's the flower of the 2nd type in my back garden, leaves on the left in the pic below

bramble flower

here are the berries that go with the flower above

bramble berry

the two types of bramble leaves I've noticed


What I think of as the "usual" bramble has lots of fierce thorns (top stem), the other variety is tame in comparison with quite mild thorns which I can touch quite easily

bramble stems

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

buddleja seedling

This was taken at the beginning of March. I didn't know what it was at that time. By now (end of May) it's looking very buddleja-like (next pic).


I think these are even smaller buddleja seedlings but I will be able to confirm in a few weeks.

buddleja seedlings

yes those above are buddleja

as soon as those curved middle leaves appear, you can confirm its buddleja


Burdock, Lesser

This suddenly appeared, fully formed, in this clump next door. They aren't keen gardeners but I thought I would have noticed! The flowers are very thistle-like but the leaves are completely different.


this entire clump is burdock, one can clearly see it is not nearly as tall as Greater Burdock


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.


Charlock (Sinapis arvensis)

I'm giving the latin name for clarity as it seems to have various common names. It's funny how weeds go in cycles. I don't think I've ever had this weed before and suddenly I have a few (3 in the large pot and 1 in the small pot to the right; nb there's another plant in the middle of the large pot) and next door's garden is covered with it but I'm not sure how long that's been going on. Maybe I got the seeds blowing in from there. 

I've been waiting impatiently for it to flower and confirm its identity, the flowers have 4 petals


close-up of the flower end of April 2015

charlock flower

looking over the garden wall into next door, they have masses of charlock, taller than the wall, no wonder I have seeds from it blowing into my garden


Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Annual, easy to pull out.

Chickweed seedlings


Chickweed (I will take another pic as this isn't so clear)

Chickweed, mouse-ear

in the front with buds at the top (flowering rosemary in the background)

I finally decided I had to pull it out even though the flowers hadn't opened as I really want that rosemary to thrive and not make it compete with a weed. I'm happy with the ID of mouse-ear chickweed for this.

mouse-ear chickweed


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

tiny white flowers of the goosegrass, below, buds just visible in the pic above

goosegrass flowers

goosegrass/cleavers seedling



By that I mean Yellow Suckling Clover/Lesser Trefoil/Lesser Hop Trefoil (Trifolium dubium), or so I've just discovered by googling. I thought it was just Clover! It is all over most of the garden next door which I look after. I never noticed it specifically. I mean I knew there was some clover over there but not this much.

yellow suckling clover lesser trefoil

Yellow flowers seem to have taken over the garden next door. I have a lot of creeping buttercup (left, below) at the moment and wanted to compare the flower to that of the clover (right, below) although it's not the clearest pic of the clover. I'll take another but wanted to show what I have in the meantime. I've also dicovered Wall Lettuce and Hedge Mustard recently and of course, there's still the odd smooth sow thistle, nipplewort and coltsfoot, all with yellow flowers.

buttercup clover

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

It's quite similar to hollyhock, as noted above but worth showing ano photo (below, taken June 2014). Coltsfoot leaf is smooth and shiny, hollyhock is quite textured.

coltsfoot and hollyhock

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

The specimen above looks so small unlike the large clump I noticed the other day.

common knotgrass

here is a close-up of that

common knotgrass

Common Orache (atriplex patula)

I saw this growing on the pavement outside my house. I won't pull it out until it flowers.

common orache

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

while pulling up this grass which had spread to one of my pots I noticed how red the bases of the clumps were, I never noticed that before, I'm wondering now if it is all couch grass or just a variation or detail I never noticed, will try to find out; although it's annoying I'm always happy it's relatively easy to pull out

couch grass

also couch grass or another grass? this looks quite different from the clumps above but maybe they would turn into that given time?

grass weed

close-up of one of the spreading roots above

spreading grass weed

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.


dandelions usually have toothed leaves but not always at the beginning, sometimes they develop later

dandelion without toothed leaves

Deadnettle, see Lamium

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.


small dock plant/seedling, these leaves (below) are between 3 and 6.5 cm, not very recognisable as a dockweed yet

small dock plant

another type of dock? (I think), still researching what kind

this is in the garden next door but I also just saw it on the pavement a few houses down the road

close-up of the flower on the above plant

The following 3 photos are Enchanters Nightshade. Perennial, easy to pull out, see below how all the roots have come out when it's pulled up but if you miss one little bit it can grow a new weed.


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

Fat hen (Chenopodium album)

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 (Chenopodium album)

yesterday (25-9-2014) I did find an even larger fat hen

fat hen

fat hen seedlings

earliest seedlings, first week

Fat hen (Chenopodium album)

fat hen after a few weeks

Fat hen (Chenopodium album)

and even later

Fat hen (Chenopodium album)

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.

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

Feverfew flower

feverfew flower

Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)

I hope this photograph shows it clearly enough for identification, the leaves at the bottom are amongst a teasel.

field scabiout

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.


Gallant Soldier (Galinsoga parviflora Cav.)

gallant soldier weed

a close-up of the above plant

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

Goosegrass see Cleavers

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. 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.

green alkanet seedlings: on the right in the black plastic pot on the left and on the left in the terracotta pot at the bottom of the pic, compare with the textured leaves of the foxgloves: to the right in bottom terracotta pot and in the  very small pot bottom right

also in the pots below top right: dandelion along with viola and verbena bonariensis, bottom left pot: forget-me-not in the middle with that distinctive strong line down the middle of the leaf making it identifiable

green alkanet seedlings

close-up of the green alkanet seedlings from above, they have that distinctive folded 3rd leaf (and a tiny, tiny oxalis with the long thin root, in the small plastic pot bottom right above)

green alkanet seedlings

green alkanet without its distinctive blue flowers

green alkanet

Grass, see Couch Grass

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

The seedling is quite flat on the ground and then suddenly a stem shoots up from the centre.

hairy bittercress

hairy bittercress

hairy bittercress seedlings, before the central stem has shot up

hairy bittercress seedling

and here is the tiniest, tiniest beginning of the hairy bittercress (about 1.2 cm wide)

This is one of the oldest hairy bittercress I've seen. I've just discovered it in a pot end of March 2015. It seems to have survived the winter, which was mild and turned into an established plant - that won't last long!

hairy bittercress

with the cat just to put it into perspective (it's the seedling on the bottom right)

hairy bittercress

Hedge Mustard

I'm surprised I've never seen this in the garden before today (June 13th). I'm seeing this everywhere now.

hedge mustard

It's appeared both in the garden and out.

hedge mustard

hedge mustard flower

hedge mustard flower

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

Herb Robert seedling (I think, will confirm after it grows larger), I never saw one this small before, I did not know it had that shape seed leaves before the distinctive ones

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 underneath is teasel. Of course at the top is ivy.


I don't know what makes leaves red like this, will try to find out more.

red-leaved honesty

honesty (lunaria) 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

very small honesty (lunaria) seedlings

another honesty seedling

a small honesty plant with those distinctive center leaves

another, more developed, honesty plant

honesty small plant

Horsetail (Equisetum arvenses)

Thanks to Phil for this pic of horsetail. He has found it to be impossible to eradicate. Apparently no flowers are produced but I don't know much about this weed as, thankfully, I do not have it in my garden.

Horseweed (Conyza canadensis)

tall annual weed with small white flowers


Horseweed seedlings, looking very different from the adult plant



horseweed seedlings

not all horseweed start with the rosette of leaves, I think it depends when they start growing

this one has been growing the last few weeks in this pot and never had that rosette of notched leaves, about 40 cm tall

there are some buds at the top


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 (as a weed)

Ivy can root anywhere. If you try to cut ivy down but don't remove all the branches, they will root into a wall, brickwork, anywhere. Don't think if you cut connection to the roots, you have killed it, you haven't! I found this ivy had rooted into a bag of crushed shells I had for mulching.


Ivy-Leaved Speedwell

tiny flowers, matt and hairy whereas the ivy-leaved toadflax below is smooth and shiny

Ivy-Leaved Toadflax

This was taken beginning of April, when the flowers appeared. Smooth and shiny in contrast to the ivy-leaved speedwell above which is hairy.

ivy-leaved toadflax

the reddish buds before the flowers appear, below

ivy-leaved toadflax

Knotgrass, see Common Knotgrass

Lamium (deadnettle)

lamium deadnettle

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 which looks like a different one from that above.


the self-seeder to the right, I did think might be nepeta but now I'm thinking deadnettle


2 weeks later and it has flowered, the cats are completely ignoring it so I think that's pretty definitive against it being nepeta. There do seem to be various kinds of deadnettle so I think this is one of them.



Lesser Knapweed (Centaurea nigra)

I bought this as a "wildflower" at the garden centre (they were on sale so couldn't resist) but some may have this self-seeding in their garden.

lesser knapweed

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. (a comparison with wood avens is below in the wood avens entry)

beginning of July and I see my first mallow flower


Here is a more established plant (with lots of flowers).


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 another whiligig with the seedling just emerging

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

Milk Thistle (see Plant Identification page)


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.

another one sprang up on the other side of the garden next door


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

Nightshade, Woody also known as Bittersweet

Thank you to Suzanne who identified this as Woody Nightshade. This had purple flowers and now has red berries (August 2013).


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.


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

Here's 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

here is the seedling above fully grown


nipplewort flower





At first I thought this might be Wall Lettuce, esp as I couldn't see the bottom of the plant (the flowers are very similar). I had to pull it up, to both identify it and take a photo showing it all. It became clear it's Nipplewort, with those distinctive notched leaves at the bottom. I don't usually let Nipplewort grow and see it this tall but this one got away.





Orache, see Common Orache


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

I usually pull the oxalis up whenever I see it but one plant bloomed before I noticed it and then I realised I didn't have a pic here of the flower so I've taken one. I just noticed the yellow buds on the plant above.

oxalis flower

This Oxalis (below) which I pulled up the other day (Sept 2014) shows 1. how long the roots are which did made it difficult to pull up 2. how runners extend the plant 3. a tiny bud in the middle at the top.


this shows how oxalis puts out runners which helps it spread so much, it loves the cultivated soil in my pots but that also makes it easy to pull out

oxalis runners

Oxalis debilis, pink woodsorrel

I thought this was just a pink oxalis weed but I see it may not be considered a weed and is generally called woodsorrel.

pink oxalis

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

This was growing in a crack on the front path next door. By pulling really hard I managed to get it up and even including the root, as shown below.

pale persicaria

I can't remember how easy or difficult this one was to pull up. Much more developed than the one above.

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.

tiny petty spurge seedling (at the top of the pot on the right), also foxgloves bottom left and forget-me-not bottom right

pheasant berry (Leycesteria formosa) has been suggested, I'll have to go with that as the first pic was taken a year ago (July 2014) and the second I took recently (July 2015) and it still has no flowers or the resulting berries and I'm tired of it taking up room on my patio so disposing of it

pheasant berry

Pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri)


on the pavement near my house I noticed these weeds, at the end of each branch there is a spray of buds, small pellitory of the wall to the right

some smaller plants without the "flower"s on the end of a branch

to the left looks like horseweed, to the right chickweed

an update on the pigweed end of August

a close-up of the "flowers" middle of September

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

these are much easier to pull up if identified early, those vertically-veined leaves are distinctive, as are those flowers, shoots just visible on the right of the left plant and on the left of the right plant

plantain weed

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

Prickly Sow Thistle

not to be confused with smooth sow thistle (see below), the leaves may be the same shape (ie lobed) only prickly or more oval-shaped like this one

In the pic below I wanted to show how the leaves curl around the stem.

prickly sow thistle

a close-up of the flower buds

the plant was small here, the first flower bud had just emerged

As the flowers die, they release seeds like a dandelion with "fluffy bits" (pappus) to carry them on the wind.

prickly sow thistle

this one self-seeded between the cracks

prickly sow thistle

and this prickly sow thistle self-seeded on the left in the pot below right (next to a teasel), also pot on the left has foxglove at the bottom and teasel at the top

prickly sow thistle seedling

and that prickly sow thistle seedling from above, leaf is about 5 cm long

prickly sow thistle seedling

I first noticed this prickly sow thistle in the pot with the hosta Sept 2014.

prickly sow thistle

The following spring (April 2015) it seems to have replaced the old leaves with this beautiful rosette of leaves. I still wanted to see it develop and bloom but also wanted the hosta so I pulled up and prickly sow thistle and put it in its own pot. It had a very large taproot, visible below.

prickly sow thistle

Beginning of June 2015 and one of the flowers has developed into a seedhead, like a dandelion, time to dispose of this before any of those seeds float away!

prickly sow thistle

Another prickly sow thistle was 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 (prickly sow thistle), the other dandelion-like weed I found yesterday (smooth sow thistle) above and a bog-standard dandelion.

dandelion leaves

a tiny tiny prickly sow thistle, to the right, below, with the yellow flower, mid-July

only about 10 cm tall, after I pulled it out

prickly sow thistle

Ragwort (Senecio Jacobaea)


Red Valerian see the Identification - South Coast page

Ribwort Plantain

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

ribwort plantain

scrophularia grandiflora

(with thanks to the RHS forum for ID help), I don't know if this is considered a weed, think I saw it described as a such on a web site but can't find that now, I don't like it and it self-seeded so to me it's a weed!

and from above

a few weeks later, yellow flowers on the verge of opening up

flowers just opening up

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 (Sonchus oleraceus)

Annual, easy to pull out (do look at the seedlings below as well). I'm afraid there are loads of pics of this but it is such a widespread weed and so common, it's worth looking at variations.

smooth sow thistle

smooth sow thistle

smooth sow thistle

smooth sow thistle

Smooth sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)

There are red variations

smooth sow thistle

I wasn't sure what this was at first that appeared in one of my pots but it's become clear it's smooth sow thistle.

smooth sow thistle

Smooth sow thistle leaf

Smooth sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)

Smooth Sow Thistle

Smooth sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)

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 (Sonchus oleraceus)

Smooth Sow Thistle seedlings

I think there's another smaller one to the right.

smooth sow thistle

Here is the seedling on the left above a week later, next pic is the one on the right a week later.

smooth sow thistle

a close-up of the one on the right

smooth sow thistle

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

one might think I've covered a lot of variations of smooth sow thistle but I spotted a new one yesterday (mid-October, 15-10-2015), it has stems growing out from the main stem and a flower on each including the main stem

multi-branch 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

Wild/Alpine/Woodland Strawberry

this spreads like mad, I find the fruits small and often not that nice

alpine strawberry

Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

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

as soon as that distinctive texture on the leaves is visible its identifiable as a teasel seedling, below on leaves of 4 and 5 cms, at this point its easy to pull them up if you don't want the teasels in that place, I let a few grow but not to the point where they take over, which they easily do

teasel seedlings

below the seedling from the bottom of the pic above

teasel seedling

on the right when the seedlings have grown and have more leaves, on the left the texture of the leaves is just starting to show

teasel seedling


spear thistle


spear thistle


creeping thistle, in bloom end of June

creeping thistle

flowers on a spear thistle in July

thistle in flower

close-up of a spear thistle before it blooms (end of June)

spear thistle

thistle seedlings

thistle seedlings

a comparison of thistle leaves, on the left creeping thistle, on the right spear thistle

thistle leaves

I saw this rosette of a thistle yesterday (10-1-2016), think it's a spear thistle but will go back and see how it develops

thistle rosette

Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)

this is the sort of thing you see springing up anywhere and everywhere, like buddleja

tree of heaven

I cut off the branch above and it's grown back, surrounded by jasmine

tree of heaven

Verbascum thapsus (great mullein)

this is a biennial, here is the young plant, year one


Verbascum flower, year two

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


at first these look similar to foxglove but then their furriness and those distinctive leaves in the center make it clear these are verbascum thapsus

Verbascum thapsus

I'm a big advocate of identifying seedlings as early as possible. These are a good example. At first they could be foxgloves or hollyhocks or something else but as soon as those furry inner leaves come out (bottom right, far left), then it's definitely verbascum thapsis and if you have enough of those (or in my case too many!), you can thin them out.

verbascum thapsus seedlings


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.


Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare)

I guess this is considered a weed in some circles, personally I love it and planted seeds a few years ago. I don't know if this self-seeded from a seed blowing in or grew from a dormant seed in the soil. (plaintain to the right in the pic below, the soil is rock-hard so that will be difficult to dig up)

Viper's Bugloss

Wall Lettucewall lettuce

This is so much like smooth sow thistle but the flower is definitely  different although the lower leaves are quite similar. It's quite tall. This one was 85 cm tall - thus the difficutly of taking and posting the photo.










This photo below was taken when the wall lettuce was in situ in the flower bed. I had to pull it out to show the entire plant.

wall lettuce

I had previously taken this photo of the small plant in this spot. I thought it might have been nightshde but know I can see it was wall lettuce.

wall lettuce

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

Wild Cabbage

Thanks to Caroline who helped me identify this as Wild Cabbage. This was seen along Regents Canal.

wild cabbage

wild cabbage

Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) see Identification - South Coast


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

another seedling 7-2015

in a pot across the road

Willowherb generally 2 types in our gardens:

broad-leaved willowherb shiny bright-green leaves of classic shape, spreads via roots which emerge as rosettes on the surface of the soil, difficult to pull up if part of a spreading root system

short-fruited willowherb thinner leaves, easy to pull up

In the countryside, there is also Rosebay Willowherb. I've never knowingly seen it flowering in a London garden but I have seen them in flower outside urban areas. Having said that, I think it's growing next door but so far not large enough to flower.

Short-fruited willowherb, the fluffy bits at the top, just starting to show below, contain the seeds.


although the willowherb flowers are usually pink, I found this one that's purple the other day

willowherb purple flower

short-fruited willowherb seedlings

rosebay willowherb

Broad-leaved willowherb, by the time I noticed this it's grown multiple stems

broad-leaved willowherb

broad-leaved willowherb

rosettes of broad-leaved willowherb growing from the spreading roots

I noticed some broad-leaved willowherb plants in the back garden and when I pulled them up saw two different sprouts on the roots, red leaved (top below) and green (below in the pic below) and then close-ups of each in the following pics.

willowherb sprout

willowherb sprout

willowherb sprout

I think this is broad-leaved but I'm not even sure. At this stage it looks as if it could be either.

rosebay willowherb

Rosebay Willowherb

seedling, left below

That (on the left above, taken beginning of March) has turned into this, middle of June.

3 months later the above has grown a little taller but otherwise little change.

following year, to the right, other plants are nigella

a few weeks later

and here's another pic, I wanted to make sure that red stem showed up clearly (the nigella has a red stem as well)

Rosebay Willowherb has a very distinctive veining on the leaves, they don't extend to the edge of the leaf:

rosebay willowherb leaf

underside of the above

rosebay willowherb leaf underside

compare with a short-fruited or broadleaved willowherb leaf:

willowherb leaves

medium-sized plant, second year, discarded after I established what it was

rosebay willowherb

I saw these, full-sized rosebay willowherb plants at the side of the road in West Sussex

rosebay willowherb

rosebay willowherb

This is Wood Avens also called Herb Bennett (Geum Urbanum). 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.

Taken in April, before it flowered:

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

After the Wood Avens have flowered there are prickly burrs with the seeds.

wood avens

I wasn't sure if the plant on the right was wood avens or mallow, then saw I have them both near each other so thought a comparison might be useful, mallow on the left, wood avens on the right

Please see the end of the Plant Identification page for my unknown plants/weeds.