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 are in alphabetical order.
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.
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 with powdery mildew which they seem prone to
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
early shoots of bindweed
Bird Seed Weeds
Another seedling I don't recognise has appeared from the bird seed. Similar to petty spurge. April 2017
I'll pot one up and see how it develops.
I am now convinced this was some bird seed which got into this pot. It had been at the bottom by some of the drainage holes and I repotted it. I guess that was a mistake but I was curious.
I have had other bird seed seedlings/plants that look like grass/grain. Impossible to narrow it down and I don't I need to.
I think this is oilseed rape or some other brassica.
here is a close-up of one of the leaves above, the stem has that little leaf which looks like it should be on the larger leaf above it on the stem
looking quite like oilseed rape now
a close-up of one of the plants in the pot above
I will leave it to flower and take pics.
"Black Bindweed" can refer to tuberous Black Bryony or the annual Wild Buckwheat, each listed below. (thanks to Jacqui who explained they were 2 different plants)
Black Bryony/Black Bindweed (Dioscorea communis)
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.
a close-up of the heart-shaped leaf
a close-up of the flowers
Black Bindweed/Wild Buckwheat (Fallopia convolvulus)
I am sure that this came from bird seed (see above Bird Seed Weeds).
Nov 2015 I had a few self-seeding, as of April 2016 these appear to have died over winter but I will keep and eye on those pots and see if they return and hope to see flowers if they do.
May 2016 and the wild buckwheat is back.
I potted it up and it's already produced some buds a few weeks later.
a close-up of the buds a few days later
a couple days later and the flowers are in bloom
Going back to last year (10-2015), I now know that these seedlings were wild buckwheat.
I pulled up one (slightly larger about 10 cm tall) from this area recently (7-2016).
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)
when you have flowers the bluebells are easy to identify but if they haven't bloomed yet, as those below, the leaves have a ridge down the back unlike hyacinth leaves which are smooth making them easy to identify (thank you to Barbara for this info - some of us really don't want bluebells in the garden)
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.
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
here are the berries that go with the flower above
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
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..
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.
yes those above are buddleja
as soon as those curved middle leaves appear, you can confirm its buddleja
This suddenly appeared, fully formed, in this clump next door (August 2014). 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, I'm not sure if it's lesser or greater burdock
that clump above has long since been cleared and recently (June 2016) the lawn was mown, shortly after that this small plant appeared
I saw these yesterday (21-4-2017) off a nearby main road. I wonder how tall they'll get if left to grow.
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.
Caper Spurge (a type of Euphorbia)
while walking around east London yesterday this weed caught my eye, greater celandine?
Thanks to Tina who sent me this photo of lesser 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.
Centaurea Nigra (Lesser Knapweed)
I planted this as a wildflower but I guess in some circles it's considered a weed.
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.
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
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.
I got a few pots from freecycle and wanted to see what would grow, in this case chickweed!
I let it grow and flower so I could take some clear pics
close-up of those flowers
those examples of chickweed above look very lush and green but I saw some on the pavement down the road that were much more sparse, they adapted to their harsher conditions
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.
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 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.
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.
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 Field-Speedwell (Veronica persica)
Apologies fellow gardeners, I had this listed as ground-ivy, a recent addition here, but those buds opened today (11-3-2017) and I was able to take a photo and it's definitely not ground-ivy but common field-speedwell, a weed I had not encountered before (first noticed it Feb 2017). It's similar to deadnettle so maybe I just didn't take note before. BTW I love those purple flowers and will not be removing it.
close-up of the flower
bare lengths of stems between groups of leaves
It happens to be growing in the same pot as some deadnettle (on the right) which I originally mistook it for as I have lots of deadnettle everywhere now (I like the small flowers, esp as the bees love them) but here it's easy to see the deadnettle has differently textured leaves which have rounded lobes. The field-speedwell leaves are smooth and toothed. (in the middle is forget-me-not and larger leaves at the top, green alkanet)
The specimen above looks so small unlike the large clump I noticed the other day.
here is a close-up of that
One of the freecycle pots had common knotgrass which I allowed to grow to see the flowers produced. I didn't realize the "knots" above had the little white flowers but I hadn't taken close-up enough photos. Here are a few I took today:
a wider view 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.
Corn Chamomile (Anthemis arvensis)
definitely a wildflower, not sure how much it's considered a weed, I have it from sowing some wildflower seeds from Ireland a friend gave me
lots of wildflowers have daisy-like flowers - can be confusing, I have ox-eye daisy but I know there are others
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.
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.
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.
Dandelion tough roots that must be dug out.
dandelions usually have toothed leaves but not always at the beginning, sometimes they develop later
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
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.
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.
yesterday (25-9-2014) I did find an even larger fat hen
fat hen seedlings
earliest seedlings, first week
fat hen after a few weeks
and even later
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.
Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)
I hope this photograph shows it clearly enough for identification, the leaves at the bottom are amongst a teasel.
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.
Fox-and-Cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca)
I bought this at the garden centre as a wildflower but some may find it invasive in their garden.
these are new plants the next year that self-seeded from my originals
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.
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.)
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.
plant a month later
I was impatient with that and couldn't wait for it to flower before pulling it out but I saw another one off a main road nearby in flower. I assume it's the same plant, still not sure which geranium exactly.
Goosegrass/ Cleavers (Galium aparine)
very early goosegrass seedling
at first I didn't recognise it but as it grew and I touched it and found that dry stickiness, it became clear it's goosegrass
early pic of goosegrass (taken before I realised not to pull the weeds up before I take a pic)
tiny white flowers of the goosegrass, below, buds just visible in the pic above
I love Green Alkanet with its beautiful blue flowers in bloom very early in the spring, good for bees when little else is in bloom. Don't worry if it covers the garden (as it does mine in early spring), it dies back before other plants get going. The leaves do have a similarity to foxglove but the alkanet has slightly 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
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 without its distinctive blue flowers
Grass different types
Couch Grass. Spreads but can be pulled out at the base.
This is the 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
also couch grass or another grass? this looks quite different from the clumps above but maybe they would turn into that given time?
close-up of one of the spreading roots above
another type of grass
and a week later
some sort of grass weed, goosegrass? (not to be confused with cleavers), crabgrass? will research further
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.
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.
Annual easy to pull out.
early groundsel seedling
I saw this a few weeks ago and mistook it for horseweed but today (a few weeks later) it was a lot more identifiable. (I did take a pic but it's not as clear as the one above.)
this has me completely confused, it looks similar to groundsel but the leaves are a different shape, ragwort? Oxford ragwort?
and just to confuse things further, a groundsel has self-seeded itself next to this (pulled it out and laid it next to this for comparison) and it is definitely different leaves at the top but similar leaves at the bottom, definitely thinking senecio weeds (groundsel, ragwort, Oxford ragwort, not sure if there are others)
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.
The seedling is quite flat on the ground and then suddenly a stem shoots up from the centre.
hairy bittercress seedlings, before the central stem has shot up
and here is the tiniest, tiniest beginning of the hairy bittercress (about 1.2 cm wide)
with the cat just to put it into perspective (it's the seedling on the bottom right)
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!
hawkbit, hawkweed, hawk's beard ??
I've been back and forth with this, hawkbit, hawkweed, hawk's beard, sowthistle? I'm not absolutely certain.
I noticed this mid-July locally (Camden Gardens, north London) after previously only seeing it on the southcoast and putting it on my southcoast identification page. I am sure they are the same plant but not sure what actually makes this one plant or another. When I have more info on this will update both pages.
March 2017, I notice some small plants in the same spot and think they are the new season's growth. I don't know if they are new seedlings or growing from the existing plants. Will keep a watch on how they develop and continue to research exactly what plant this is.
a close-up of the leaves show the prickly edge
Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale)
I'm surprised I've never seen this in the garden before today (June 13th). I'm seeing this everywhere now. I pulled it up and put it on my front doorstep to take a pic
It's appeared both in the garden and out, the pavement outside my house.
close-up of the hedge mustard flower
I saw a lot of hedge mustard yesterday (21-4-2017) off a main road and wanted to show some more details of it.
before the longer stem with the flowers appear
close-up of the hedge mustard flowers and buds
seeing all that hedge mustard the other day made me re-consider the plant on the left which I had originally (mistakenly) called smooth sow thistle but I realise it is hedge mustard (prickly sow thistle on the right)
close-up of those textured leaves
and another view of that close-up
this is in a park round the corner, very tall weed with white flowers, we saw a few different examples on the Chelsea Fringe Weed Walk
close-up of the leaves
Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)
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 seedling, the seed leaves precede the very distinctive leaves
The following 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.
honesty (lunaria) 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
a small honesty plant with those distinctive center leaves
another, more developed, honesty 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
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
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 flower
Iris foetidissima seed pods
iris foetidissima seed pods splitting open to reveal those bright orange seeds
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.
tiny flowers, matt and hairy whereas the ivy-leaved toadflax below is smooth and shiny
This was taken beginning of April, when the flowers appeared. Smooth and shiny in contrast to the ivy-leaved speedwell above which is hairy.
the reddish buds before the flowers appear, below
Knotgrass, see Common Knotgrass
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 of the viola seedlings is a deadnettle
2 weeks later and it has flowered
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.
This is a moss-like weed that has appeared in some seed trays.
from that one small "sprout", the liverwort has spread quite a lot in my pots but it doesn't seem to cause much of a problem, recently I've noticed these upright growths
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.
here's another whirligig with the seedling just emerging
Here's a larger one.
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.
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, the bright blue flowers are green alkanet
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
white flowers and green and black (bottom left) berries, I saw this along the Regent's Canal
I saw this in Bloomsbury this week (15-8-2016), very distinctive leaf shape as above
Nightshade, Woody also known as Bittersweet
Thank you to Suzanne who originally identified Woody Nightshade. I've taken a better pic of one I saw round the corner.
its distinctive purple and yellow flowers (that green plant wrapping around it is something else, think maybe honeysuckle)
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 as a rosette of leaves, I think, like horseweed, nipplewort starts with a rosette of leaves depending on when it starts growing
this nipplewort seedling started off as a rosette flat on the ground (end of January/beginning of February 2017) and just started to grow upwards before I took this pic (on Feb 18th)
fully grown nipplewort
close-up of the 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.
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
thank you to Tom for alerting me to oxalis growing from little bulbs left in the soil under the surface
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.
another plant I sowed from seed as a wildflower but it can get invasive
This is my first year of these self-seeding. They do look quite prolific.
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.
I can't remember how easy or difficult this one was to pull up. Much more developed than the one above.
Pellitory I've only recently realised there are two, pellitory-of-the-wall which I see quite a lot and upright pellitory which I've only seen from pots I got from freecycle.
Pellitory-of-the Wall (Parietaria judaica)
Large clumps which must be pulled out at ground level. (this is one of the first weed pics I took, must take another esp showing the buds/flowers)
Upright Pellitory (Parietaria officinalis)
This was in a pot I got from freecycle. I did not realize at the time what it was. I knew it was similar to pellitory of the wall (named pic "pellitory-type weed") but only recently came across upright pellitory.
this was a pic of the sprout in the middle (cotoneaster lacteus) but it shows the upright pellitory to the left
it was in another of the freecycle pots
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
Annual, easy to pull out.
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
March 2017 this has appeared in my wall. I guess it came from the same place as the first one. I did dispose of that one above and it hadn't flowered so there must be a pheasant berry growing somewhere nearby but I haven't noticed one.
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.
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
3 different types I know of
field poppy (papaver rhoeas) this is the most common one I have self-seeding in my garden
close-up of the leaves
opium poppy (Papaver somniferum)
I don't see these that often
and here is a poppy in flower
there is also the oriental poppy (papaver orientale) but I have not seen that self-seeding
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.
this one self-seeded between the cracks
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
and that prickly sow thistle seedling from above, leaf is about 5 cm long
I first noticed this prickly sow thistle in the pot with the hosta Sept 2014.
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.
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 with "fluffy bits" (pappus) float away!
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
this fresh green shoot is not the usual prickly sow thistle - although distinctive (prickly along the leaves) and identifiable if you examine it
a prickly sow thistle I noticed around the corner April 2017
Ragwort/Tansy Ragwort (Senecio Jacobaea)
this is in the front garden next door (on the other side, ie not the one I look after)
Reading about these 2 again, sounds like the rosette below is the initial stage of the ragwort above. I will update this if I find out more.
this is on the patio of the garden next door at the back, the one I help look after
Red Valerian see the Identification - South Coast page
(there's another weed there growing under it towards the bottom, slightly to the right, think it's a horseweed)
Rush, Soft Rush (Juncus Effusus)
oenothera on the left
I noticed a restaurant on the High St has a couple of rush plants outside it. Sadly, plants like this attract rubbish and cigarette butts but there is something that makes a business owner want to add some greenery to its frontage.
The one above did flower (will find a pic). I continue to have rush seedlings appearing but now I know what they are. At first glance it looks like grass but is thicker than grass. About 2 cm tall at this point.
that seedling above is tiny, below it's in situ in the pot on the left, to the right of the lupin seedling
(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
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.
Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
I've seen this in a nearby park and yesterday (21-4-2017) off Hampstead Rd (major road from Camden Town down to the Euston Rd at Warren St). I haven't seen it in my garden.
close-up of those distinctive seed pods
close-up of the 4-petalled flower in the centre, above it towards the right is a chickweed flower (more petals)
Smooth sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)
Annual, easy to pull out - roots much smaller than, for example, a dandelion which has thick and deep roots. 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. As other weeds, such as prickly sow thistle and horseweed, may or may not have a well-developed rosette before the main stem shoots up, depending on when they start growing. Smooth sow thistle can have varying amounts of red from none at all to completely red.
1. starting with seedlings
the larger plant on the left has 4 leaves, the smaller plant on the right has 3 leaves and is the youngest sow thistle seedling I have
a bit larger, same 4 basic leaves so far
2. some plants have a more well developed rosette than others
3. full-size flowering plants have extremely variable heights, adapting to their conditions
as a very successful weed smooth sow thistle copes (and flowers) in whatever environment it finds (on a wall next door)
an enormous smooth sow thistle with smooth shiny bright green leaves, March 2017, just down the road in Camden Gardens
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 with flowers
Storks-bill (Erodium cicutarium)
I saw this yesterday (21-4-2017) for the first time off Hampstead Rd (major road from Camden Town down to the Euston Rd at Warren St) so not sure how common a garden weed it is. I haven't seen it in my garden.
those long seed pods look like a stork's bill
this spreads like mad, I find the fruits small and often not that nice
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
another plant a bit closer that might be easier to see
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
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
below the seedling from the bottom of the pic above
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
strong and tough and difficult to remove, I like them as a wildflower but worry about them becoming invasive
creeping thistle, in bloom end of June
flowers on a spear thistle in July, I love those flowers but this garden (a neighbour's) is close to being a solid block of thistles, although I do see a huge dock with brownish wilted flowers on the left, it's easy to see how weeds get out of control
close-up of a spear thistle before it blooms (end of June)
thistle seedlings, not sure which variety but if I let some seedlings grow to see variety I need to keep them potted up so they don't get out of control
a comparison of thistle leaves, on the left creeping thistle, on the right spear thistle
I saw this rosette of a thistle yesterday (10-1-2016), think it's a spear thistle but will go back (it's along the Regents Canal) and see how it develops
Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
this is the sort of thing you see springing up anywhere and everywhere, like buddleja
I cut off the branch above and it's grown back, surrounded by jasmine (photo taken from my neighbour's garden)
tree of heaven leaves
I saw some yesterday that were quite red. I guess their environment affects the colour.
Valerian comes in red, pink and white varieties. I saw this white one recently (June 2016) at a local park in a fenced off wildflower area. I saw red valerian on Hayling Island on the south coast so it's on the Identification - South Coast page and reader Diane recently sent me a pic of her pink valerian so I'm finally pulling all this info together.
close-up of one of the flowers
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
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.
It's been a couple years since I've seen any verbascum thapsis seedlings but this week I noticed this one growing out of a wall by the pavement nearby.
Violet (Viola odorata)
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)
close-up of the flowers
When I first grew viper's bugloss from seed I did not have much success - think I got 1 plant - and did not take photos of the seedlings/small plants so when these seedlings appeared - or at least when I noticed them enough to take a pic (Oct 2016) I didn't recognise them but now, being impatient to find out what they are, looking around the web I think they are viper's bugloss (also foxglove, viola, snapdragon in that small pot) which I did sow seed for the previous few years but never seemed to get any germination.
a reader suggested fox and cubs so I compared the two, fox and cubs to the left and above of the pot, similar in having rosette of hairy leaves
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.
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.
I previously had this as a smooth sow thistle but I'm now thinking it's wall lettuce, although as I didn't let it develop any further I can't say for sure.
Here's another plant I initially thought was smooth sow thistle round the corner (pellitory of the wall to the left) but I now think is wall lettuce, see close-up of the buds next pic.
the buds are looking more wall lettuce, I will see how they develop
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 buddleja, foxglove, verbascum thapsis and sweet rocket, also pictured elsewhere.
Thanks to Caroline who helped me identify this as Wild Cabbage. This was seen along Regents Canal.
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. - update - pretty sure I've seen it flowering nearby last year (2016) but will check and take a pic this year (2017)
Short-fruited willowherb, the fluffy bits at the top, just starting to show below, contain the seeds.
short-fruited willowherb seedlings
tiny early short-fruited willow herb seedling which appeared end of Feb/ beginning of March
Broad-leaved willowherb, by the time I noticed this it's grown multiple stems
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.
I think this is broad-leaved but I'm not even sure. At this stage it looks as if it could be either.
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:
underside of the above
compare with a short-fruited or broadleaved willowherb leaf:
medium-sized plant, second year, discarded after I established what it was
I saw these, full-sized rosebay willowherb plants at the side of the road in West Sussex
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.
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.
Some weeks later, differently shaped leaves at the top of the plant.
After the Wood Avens have flowered there are prickly burrs with the seeds.
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.