Can anyone help me identify this? I live in Essex, England and it's in a border in my garden. Within 1 metre (three feet) is an ornamental Pear tree, other plants and grasses are close by too. Also near is a bird feedfeeder which I fill with general seed and peanuts.

There is one other instance of this 'plant' within 1 metre of the one photographed - I have not found any others .... yet.

Obviously I'm concerned it may be invasive.enter image description here

All help much appreciated.

  • 1
    How long ago did it emerge?
    – J. Musser
    Jul 1, 2014 at 16:30
  • 1
    Wow that was quick- thank you. I would say within the last 4 or 5 days no more than that. Its a strange thing - there are no leaves that I can see except something that sits underneath the flower maybe its a bract ie leaf like?
    – Richard
    Jul 1, 2014 at 16:44
  • 1
    Those details + the pic make me think parasitic. I can do more research when I get off work.
    – J. Musser
    Jul 1, 2014 at 16:54
  • 1
    Thanks jmusser. I'll try to take another picture but this time with my camera - not mobile and will post that later. If its parasitic then I guess its living on the Pear tree roots. The plants in the surrounding space seem unaffected by this new growth.
    – Richard
    Jul 1, 2014 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


This looks remarkably like a flowering stem on Acanthus mollis - but there are no leaves. Have you had this plant in the garden before, and thought you'd dug it out?

Otherwise, probably one of the Lathraeas, maybe L. squamaria, seems a bit tall for L. clandestina. Lathraeas are parasitic/symbiotic on roots and are usually produced in forested areas, but don't cause any harm to the trees. Common name is Broomrape or toothwort. Be interesting to see how it develops!

UPDATE: Been checking, but all the non agricultural information is to do with getting the stuff to grow, not trying to get rid of it, particularly L. clandestina. I doubt you'll get rid of it altogether, as its parasitic on woody roots - most of its activity is underground, but you can try glyphosate if you want, or just dig out the flowering stems as much as possible when you see them. This plant can be a huge problem in agriculture, but not so much in our gardens.

UPDATE 2: Yes, its actually Orobanche, probably O. purpurea, not Lathraea. Even so, it's not really an issue, its classed as a rare Wildflower. This one usually grows in association with Achillea millefolium, if it grows at all. Can be annual or possibly perennial, likes dryish, light soil.

  • Thank you Bamboo. I think you have identified it. I searched form Broomrape and found this picture (link) > bing.com/images/…
    – Richard
    Jul 1, 2014 at 17:28
  • @Richard - can't follow the link in a comment, apparently!
    – Bamboo
    Jul 1, 2014 at 17:29
  • Sorry. I just searched for Common broomrape and the picture I found seems to be it. Try this link >> wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/B/Broomrape(Common)/…
    – Richard
    Jul 1, 2014 at 17:32
  • Having read various things it seems I need to stop it flowering and seeding as a single plant can produce thousands of seeds. So that means I need to pull it up. As its a parasite then i guess there's every chance it will return - could a weedkiller be used ??
    – Richard
    Jul 1, 2014 at 17:49
  • 2
    I'd be leery of using glyphophate on something that's parasitizing the roots of something I want to keep. There's a connection there. Jul 1, 2014 at 18:18

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.