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Mystery fan flower, elderberry and "ice" plant

by Janet Carson | July 19, 2021 at 7:02 a.m.

Mystery Plants – Fan Flower, Elderberry, Baby Sun Rose

Fan Flower or Scaevola is a ground-hugging summer annual. It flowers best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. The fan shaped flowers are produced all season long on low spreading plants.

It is heat and drought tolerant. The plant grows 8-10 inches tall with a spread of 12-24 inches depending on variety. The plant is native to Australia. It comes in a variety of colors from shades of purples to pinks, whites and even a yellow.

Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis

is a large shrub with compound leaves that can grow 12 feet tall and wide. In June the branches are topped with clusters of small white flowers. After blooming, small black fruits form which ripen in late summer.

Birds and other wildlife enjoy the fruits, but many gardeners harvest them and make jams, jellies and wine. Elderberry plants do best in full sun with ample moisture. Be aware the plants do sucker and colonies can occur. In recent years, several new varieties of more ornamental elderberries have hit the market with dark purple foliage- Black Beauty

and Black Lace

are two varieties. The flowers are a pale pink. A yellow foliaged form called Lemon Lace

is also available.

I have had quite a few friends and gardeners send me plants to add to the mystery plant challenge. I think it is great. Recently a good friend who works in a local nursery, suggested using mezoo as a mystery plant since they get a lot of questions about it. I said I would, but it was a mystery to me as well—I had never heard of mezoo. I asked her to send me a picture. Her Mezoo was my “ice plant” called baby sun rose that I was growing in my garden.

When I used the plant, everyone guessed ice plant or Baby Sun Rose. It is interesting that in the trade there are two identical plants labeled two different Latin names—some call it Aptenia cordifolia ‘Variegata’- common names Variegated Baby Sun Rose, Ice plant or Heart-leaf Ice Plant. Some call it Mezoo Trailing Red and give it the Latin name Dorotheanthus. As far as I can tell, it is the very same plant. It is a summer annual that can blanket the ground with lovely variegated, heart-shaped succulent foliage

and small bright red fringed flowers. The flowers like other ice plants, close at night and open in the morning. It is a different genus than the perennial ice plant – Delosperma

with thinner succulent leaves and slightly larger flowers. I have always killed the perennial ice plants, so only bought two of this annual one to see how it would do. Baby Sun Rose is easy to grow and lovely.

It propagates easily by just taking a piece off the plant, letting it air dry for an hour or two then put it in some soil and it roots. It would be possible to grow it indoors this winter—I may try. So whatever you call it, it is worth trying.


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