Garden Detective

Garden Detective: Mystery plant is a favorite of birds, bees

What is it? It’s one of four volunteers. It’s evergreen, most leaf edges are smooth, but some are slightly serrated. It has small pink flowers, but profuse, and the berries look like blueberries. This plant is 4 feet tall and still growing.

Vincent Llaguno, Rocklin

Lucky you; that’s a lovely landscape shrub, donated to your garden most likely by some birds.

It’s an Indian hawthorn ( Rhaphiolepis indica), a very popular evergreen landscape shrub that tolerates a wide range of growing conditions and keeps on blooming.

Often pruned into compact balls or hedges, hawthorn can reach 15 feet tall if left to grow to full size, but most examples stay under 4 feet.

Its handsome foliage and profuse pink flowers make it an interesting foundation shrub. Bees and other beneficial insects love the fragrant blooms.

In fall, it bears plump blue berries that do indeed look like blueberries and add winter interest to the landscape. The fruit is edible; birds love it – and so do deer.

Native to China, Indian hawthorn is a member of the rose family and is used extensively in California landscaping as well as throughout the sun belt. It’s hardy to zones 3 through 10.

Indian hawthorn loves full sun but will cope with partial shade. New hybrid varieties are available that stay compact and grow close to the ground.

That’s no tomato worm

Dr. Robert Norris, a UC Davis plant science professor emeritus and avid reader, spotted the wrong worm photo in a recent Garden Detective column.

Appearing in the Nov. 16 Home & Garden section, the pupa photo supplied by a reader was indeed a tomato hornworm, according to Norris. But the photo of a larva stage worm was something else.

“The photo of the larva (worm) does not appear to be a tomato hornworm as the head capsule does not look right and I cannot see any sign of the ‘horn,’” noted Norris. He added that the larva have chewing mouthparts, not a proboscis or tube-like tongue. The pupa stage has the distinctive handle-like extension that protects the future moth’s developing proboscis.


Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties. Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h& Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact UC Extension directly, call:

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