Quick questions & answers
QI saw this unusual caterpillar in the summer – what is it, please?
Jerry Gwyn, Ludlow, Shropshire
AThis is the caterpillar of an elephant hawk moth. When it feels threatened it rears up and resembles an elephant’s head. Its eyespots deter predators.
A native of Europe, the caterpillars and adult moths can be found in woody areas, on grassy banks and in gardens. They eat fuchsias and other plants, but not enough to do any real damage.
QPlease can you identify this shrub for me?
Mrs Brenda Tunstall, Haywards Heath, West Sussex
AThis is probably salal or shallon (Gaultheria shallon), a North American plant that treats us to a display of pinkish-white flowers in late spring and early summer.
It is a splendid drought resister.
QWhat shrub do these scented leaves come from?
Teresa O’Hara, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex
AIt could well be sweet bay (Laurus nobilis). Frost-hardy and growing to around 40ft (12m), it does best in full sun. It will remain small if you grow it in a container.
Its leaves are used for flavouring stocks, soups, marinades and casseroles.