What kind of flower is this?
June 23, 2012 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify this flower.

We regularly plant potatoes in this pot, and grow them as long as we can manage to keep them alive in the desert. 1-2 months ago we planted another potato, but this grew instead. It looks nothing like any of the other potatoes we've grown. What is it?
posted by BurnChao to Home & Garden (25 answers total)
Looks like some sort of sunflower.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:04 PM on June 23, 2012

It looks like some kind of sunflower.
posted by Tawny Owl at 2:04 PM on June 23, 2012

It looks like a sunflower. Or a Gerber Daisy.

Once I had a tomato plant spring up out of my flower garden. Weird, isn't it?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:05 PM on June 23, 2012

Looks like a balsamroot.
posted by Hey Judas! at 2:08 PM on June 23, 2012

Response by poster: I don't know if you can tell from the pic, but the entire plant is about one foot tall, starting from the top of the pot. And sunflowers have a much bigger center. It does look a lot like one, but I don't think that it actually is.
posted by BurnChao at 2:11 PM on June 23, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, and the stem is really fuzzy.
posted by BurnChao at 2:13 PM on June 23, 2012

Seconding Gerber daisy.
posted by ThisKindNepenthe at 2:14 PM on June 23, 2012

Response by poster: The Balsamroot looks close, but the leafing is different. The leaves look different, and my mystery flower has them on the stem. Every pic I look at of balsamroot have leaves growing up at ground level only, not up the stem.
posted by BurnChao at 2:17 PM on June 23, 2012

This is definitely a sunflower. The leaves and fuzzy stem are the exact shape, color, and texture give it away. It's likely a F1 hybrid that is supposed to grow tall, but can't because it's in a pot (which is why the stem is so thin, dwarf sunflowers are disproportionally thick for their height).

Gerber daisies have neither that stem nor that leaf.
posted by thebestsophist at 2:29 PM on June 23, 2012

Oh, I forgot to say that the center of the flower isn't larger because the plant size is stunted. I grew up on a flower farm and we get lots of runts that look exactly like this.
posted by thebestsophist at 2:30 PM on June 23, 2012

I don't think it's a Gerbera daisy because the leaves don't look like Gerbera leaves; they look like sunflower leaves.

These wild sunflowers look like your plant; they have a smaller centre too, not the giant ones we normally associate with sunflowers. Also, this site specifically mentions that helianthus annuus has "daisy-like" flowers (like your plant), and the closeups of the stalks look quite fuzzy.

Another pic.

[on preview: what thebestsophist said]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:34 PM on June 23, 2012

Best answer: There is a LOT of variety among different kinds of sunflowers. The leaf shape and fuzzy stem of the flower in your pic are both very much sunflower characteristics. I think it kind of resembles the Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) aka sunchoke.
posted by fancyoats at 2:42 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's been a couple of years since we grew them but from what I recall ours looked similar to that when the flower first opened. They looked more sunflower-y as the seeds matured, which took weeks and weeks.

P.S. Check for zombies on your lawn.
posted by anaelith at 2:48 PM on June 23, 2012

That is definitely an Asteraceae (family that includes sunflowers, daisies, marigolds, etc), but not a Gerbera daisy.
posted by Specklet at 3:15 PM on June 23, 2012

Not a gerbera. Not like any sunflower I am familiar with either.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:14 PM on June 23, 2012

Your volunteer does not have the characteristic center of sunflowers.
I think it looks exactly like the pic of balsamroot that HeyJudas posted. If were any closer it would be a clone.
Here is a pic with leaves that look similar, too.

Hands down, definitely, no way is it a gerbera.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:31 PM on June 23, 2012

It's a sunflower.

There are lots of different flowers that fall under "sunflower" - not all of them are six feet tall with giant centers. :-)
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:04 PM on June 23, 2012

Best answer: I think it's a sunchoke too. I'm with fancyoats.
posted by purpleclover at 5:28 PM on June 23, 2012

After seeing purpleclover's picture, it definitely looks like a sunchoke. You can see the same slightly toothed leaves in both pictures. That is pretty cool because sunchokes are pretty easy to grow and maintain, but you definitely need a larger pot.
posted by Hey Judas! at 5:45 PM on June 23, 2012

Not a Gerbera or Balsam Root, those both have a basal growth pattern. Sunchokes not only look like your plant, but the tuber looks somewhat like a potato tuber.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:12 PM on June 23, 2012

Yes, I wonder whether the "potato" you planted a month or two ago was really a sunchoke tuber instead? The tubers I have seen mostly resemble ginger root, but is it possible you got a hold of one of the rounder, less lumpy ones and planted it, thinking it was a potato?
posted by fancyoats at 7:06 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

OK now that I have looked at the pictures of sunchokes, I definitely agree with that identification. They are in the same genus as sunflowers and the same family as daisies, hence all the confusion.

[I learned some interesting things about sunchokes from Googling "sunchoke"...apparently they spread rapidly and can damage other plants in your garden. They can also cause intestinal distress because the human body can't break down the complex carbohydrate they contain (inulin, not to be confused with insulin). There is a German liquor made from them called "Topinambur," "Rossler" or "Topi." In the 1980s several midwestern US farmers were tricked into growing them as a pyramid scheme. Fascinating!]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:34 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes definitely a sunchoke. The leaf placement, the teeth on the leaves, flower itself, it all fits. Thanks for the help all.

I checked with my wife. She says the potato came from a 10 pound bag of Russell potatoes. If it looked anything like ginger my wife definitely would've noticed that. But since I can't see any other way, I guess at least one of the potatoes in the bag actually wasn't. Weird.
posted by BurnChao at 9:23 PM on June 23, 2012

Response by poster: Now my wife is panicked. She's concerned the whole bag was GMed potatoes, and she's not comfortable with that.

I don't have much confidence in it surviving the desert heat, but maybe we should re-pot it into a larger pot. If nothing else, I want to know what the tuber looks like.
posted by BurnChao at 10:18 PM on June 23, 2012

Genetically modified potatoes they may or may not have been, but that has nothing to do with having a sunchoke tuber mixed in with your potatoes. They are not related; GM plants are extremely consistent in what they produce for cropping; you don't have some kind of mutant potato-sunchoke. Potatoes are dug mechanically and sunchokes grow like weeds, so it's not unlikely that a random tuber ended up in a potato field, or even more likely, that there was a mix up at the vegetable distribution warehouse that bags the potatoes.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:10 AM on June 24, 2012

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