Saturday, March 2, 2013

What in the World This Is

Since I posted this mystery plant photo...

...have you been on the edge of your seat? Holding your breath? Biting your nails?

That plant! What in the world is it??

Well, agonize no more! Here's the answer you've been waiting for...

it is Epimedium sulphureum!

The photo I originally posted had been taken last year. When I came across it, I thought the plant had to be epimedium because I remembered about where I had taken the picture.

But when I studied the picture, I convinced myself otherwise. That succulent, hairy scape couldn't be epimedium, could it? The stems of the plant are completely smooth and wiry. Do Epimedium even flower this early?

Could it be heuchera?

You can see here that the petioles of these heuchera leaves are hairy. And, in my garden this plant is growing right across the path from the edimedium. Is that a flower stalk just forming? The timing is about right. But the head isn't reflexed. And there are lots of new leaves growing right along with it. It could look more like the mystery photo in a few days, couldn't it? Hmm, maybe. When Janet guessed Heuchera, and then donnamotherherb agreed, I thought we might just have it figured out.

But what about Mukdenia as Alison suggested? I didn't remember ever planting that, but it's always a possibility that I did, and then forgot about it, or that it was in a mis-labeled pot. A quick google revealed some similarities, but I wasn't convinced. Again, the flower head is not reflexed and bud shape is rounder, the buds more sessile.

When Fairegarden said she thought it looks like epimedium, and then Jan backed her up, I knew she was right. Outside the next day, I sifted through the leaves around the epimedium until I found what I was looking for—which you see in the photos above.

So that's it! Mystery solved.

Now, will you please join me in hitting the play button for Fairegarden (with a replay for Jan):

Way to go, you two!!!

Epimedium is also known as bishop's hat or fairy wings. It is a hardy perennial that grows to about a foot tall in shady spots on the forest floor. Although often recommended for dry shade (which it tolerates well), it will appreciate more moderate watering. Interesting spurred flowers in the spring and good leaf color in the fall and winter make it a great year-round plant for the woodland garden.



  1. Hooray for Frances and Jan! Like I said, I thought my Heuchera guess was a bit lame, but it was all I could come up with.
    I think I need to plant some Epimedium in my dry shady section of the garden.

    1. Janet, I thought heuchera was it! When I finally found one under the leaves, I was a little more doubtful, but in my memory, it looked a lot like the photo!

  2. Love it! The reason I thought it was Epimedium is that I had seen some beginning to bloom on some other things I'd been reading about in NC and a bit further south from me, here in VA. I think I had also read that it starts a little sooner than the Heuchera. Very cool post and info :)

    1. Thanks for making a guess, Jan! You and Fairegarden convinced me to poke around the Epimedium in my garden. :)