Plants & Gardens Blog

Quiz: What Is This Plant Called?

To honor 100 years of children’s nature education at BBG, Annual Border curator Wayken Shaw has filled this year’s beds with plants with plenty of kid appeal. Many were chosen for their whimsical, evocative common names.

Can you guess what these plants are called?


A. Caterpillars
B. Mermaid tails
C. Serpent’s tongue

View Answer

The correct answer is A. Caterpillars. The common name for this native wildflower (Phacelia congesta) comes from its coiled flower clusters. Appropriately enough, once open, the purple flowers attract butterflies.


A. Gumdrop flower
B. Bunny tails
C. Gnome’s beard

View Answer

The correct answer is B. Bunny tails. The common name of this Mediterranean grass (Lagurus ovatus) comes from its soft, white flower heads.


A. Lemon drop
B. Buttered popcorn
C. Poached egg

View Answer

The correct answer is C. Poached egg. This low-growing native plant (Limnanthes douglasii) produces delicate flowers with yellow centers and white edges that look like cooked eggs.


A. Dragon wings
B. Elephant ears
C. Trojan shield

View Answer

The correct answer is B. Elephant ears. The giant leaves of Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Black Stem’, like a number of other Alcocasia species and cultivars, are as big as pachyderm ears.


A. Roman candle
B. Bottle brush
C. Lamb’s tail

View Answer

The correct answer is C. Lamb’s tail. The fuzzy pinkish flowers of Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey’ do look like they might be useful for scrubbing out baby bottles, but the common name comes the flower’s resemblance to the tails of baby sheep.


A. Golden egg
B. Pearl earrings
C. Ghost tears

View Answer

The correct answer is A. Golden egg. The fruit of this ornamental eggplant Solanum melongenastarts out white, but it turns yellow as it ripens.


A. Feathertop
B. Pipe smoke
C. Aristotle’s eyebrows

View Answer

The correct answer is A. Feathertop. Another ornamental grass, the flower heads of Pennisetum villosum are feathery looking, hence their common name.

Thanks for taking the quiz. How many plants did you correctly identify?


  • Jennifer March 5, 2018

    Is there really a plant called mermaid tears?

  • MK August 28, 2014

    Great quiz.

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