Mysterious Plant in My Garden

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Mystery Plant

Do you ever have volunteers that show up somewhere odd in your yard? Usually, I’m pretty sure what the plant is. Sometimes they are just ugly weeds, but this year, I found the plant shown above.

It was located behind a lavender bush next to a dwarf barberry. The barberry is very dark in color, similar to the red in the plant above, but the leaves are very small.

So I set out to identify this plant, and here’s what I found:

First of all, it had a pretty strong root base, similar to that of a bush or tree, so I didn’t think it was a perennial or an annual miraculously showing up after a hard winter.


The stem appears to be pretty woody and light brown. Then stems off the main branch which are red with leaves growing in an alternate pattern. The leaves are oval, have toothed edges and have branching veining. They start out red and turn green but the veins in the leaves are still red.

First I tried to Google a description and search the images. Nothing really seemed right. I kept coming up with barberry and smokebush.

Then I search for plant identifiers. I found, and They were all very interesting, but the results did not seem to fit the plant exactly, mainly because if I looked for an image of the seedling, the leaves were green, not red.

I also tried a free app called snapleaf. It was cool it but gave me similar results.

Finally, I went to Dave’s Garden Identifier forum and posted my question here. I suggested crab apple as my sister-in-law said that it looked similar to one she has in her yard. As you can see, one of the members said it may be a crab apple tree or possibly a purple leaf plum.

One final step I took was to Google the two suggestions from Dave’s Garden, adding, “leaves start out red and turn green with red veining.” I did this because I wasn’t sure what the mature plant will look like and every time I searched for a seedling image from one of the other plant identifiers, the leaves were green.

Here’s what I found:

Malus ‘Rudolph’ Crab apple
A marvelous little tree with three season interest. Carmine buds open to rose-red flowers together with the unfolding bronze-red foliage. The leaves later turn dark green, retaining red stalks and veins. The flowers are followed by ovate, orange-yellow, red-blushed fruits which last well into winter. Plant in full sun for best colour. Hardy.

This might be it. I’ll just have to wait until I see some more evidence, maybe flowers, to know for sure. It was a fun journey. Tomorrow, I will plant it in a large container and see how it grows.

How about you? Do you have any idea what this plant is? Do you have any good resources for identifying plants? What do you do when you see a volunteer in your garden?



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About Patti Estep

Patti is the creator of Garden Matter, a home and garden blog filled with projects to inspire your creative side. She loves crafting, gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and thrift stores with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends, at a restaurant, or home party enjoying new and different food adventures.

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  1. Jennifer says:

    I think I have the same thing. It was next to my roses and I thought at first thats what it was. I was glad to find this website.

    • Jennifer says:

      I looked it up and typed in seedling. I can definitely say thats exactly what it is. I was wracking my brain.
      Thanks for the help. I need to send a picture to show what I have. Right next to my roses. I have a lot of birds around. ☺

      • Hi Jennifer,

        So glad you figured it out. On the one hand I find it kinda fun sleuthing but then again it can be really frustrating too.
        Thanks for stopping by,

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