Mystery Solved: Purple Toadflax

Purple Toadflax
Purple Toadflax (Linaria purpurea)

The Mystery Flower posted last week has been identified as Purple Toadflax, Linaria purpurea .  It turns out the flower, a native of Italy, has become naturalized in Washington State, California and British Columbia, Canada.  One of the key characteristics is the dome in the center of each little flower shown in the photo below.  The flowers look like Sherlock Holmes hats.  Two friends stepped up to help with identification. I want to thank both Billy and Malcolm who are responsible for helping me get this mystery solved.  Perhaps admitting how pleased I am to get this figured out speaks to my consummate geekdom.  I do like to know what the things are that I see around me.

Purple Toadflax

Now if I could just determine what this is:

Mystery Shrub

It is an attractive, volunteer evergreen shrub and one has grown to 6 feet (2 m) tall.  New growth is reddish and the leaves are shiny, ovate, pointed, 2-3 inches long (5-7.5  cm), with smooth edges and lighter undersides.  The leaves do not change color in the winter and have a mildly sweet odor.  It is extremely drought-tolerant and likes to come up in shady spots.  I have never seen flowers or fruit.  I have explored laurels, bays, kalmia and vaccinia without success.

UPDATE:  A Mystery Solved and Some Wildlife Too This Evergreen has been identified.


  1. We have yellow toadflax that grows in our area. It is considered a noxious weed. I was looking at my list of people I follow and realized you weren't on there. I thought I did that on a previous visit. Anyway love seeing all your beautiful flowers. I have lots of nasturtiums. They are on of the few annuals that I can always count on here.

  2. Have you considered Photinia? Not all of them do the very red early foliage - especially if this is, as you say, a volunteer.


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