What are these plants growing in my yard?
August 13, 2006 5:05 PM   Subscribe

I have two plants growing in my backyard that I've never seen before. I'd like to know what they are. Pictures and specifics inside.

I live near Dallas, Texas. Both plants are tall and shrubby in form. I'll refer to them as big plant and little plant for convenience, although both are over five feet tall.

The big plant has large leaves that are shaped like pointed ovals. The leaves feel papery and the underside is slightly fuzzy. The bark is smooth. The form of the plant is one large central stalk/trunk with thinner stalks growing off of it. The thinner stalks have about 8-12 leaves growing off of them in pairs. I have a full length, close up, and close up of a leaf. The leaf in the picture is about 6.5 inches long, but some of the leaves are bigger.

The smaller leaves plant is about the same height but is more delicate. The leaves are smaller and more delicate, but the growth pattern is the same. The sap of the plant has a slightly spicy smell. Again, close up and leaves.

Both plants are the only incidence of these plants in our yard. They both grow in a shaded area. I suppose they could be the same plant (one being younger, I guess), but I don't really know. Can any gardener type people help me figure out what these visitors are?
posted by MadamM to Science & Nature (14 answers total)
My first though was Ash, but I'm not entirely convinced. Try this tree identification site.
posted by davey_darling at 5:24 PM on August 13, 2006

have they produced flowers or fruit/nuts?

Those plants have compound leaves. Looks like big has a terminal leaflet while small ends its leaves with a pair of leaflets. What are the count ranges for the leaflets?

How are the (compound) leaves attached to the stem? Are they in pairs or do they alternate?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:29 PM on August 13, 2006

Response by poster: They have not produced any flowers or fruits. The compound leaves are in pairs on big and alternate (very slightly) on small.
posted by MadamM at 5:47 PM on August 13, 2006

They look a lot like sumac to me.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:25 PM on August 13, 2006

Big Plant looks like what we call in the heartland, "Tree of Heaven". We call it a trash tree and rip it up when we find them. Little plant looks like a first cousin to me, but I haven't seen that one.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:35 PM on August 13, 2006

The smooth bark and the fact that it smells leads me to suggest it might be a member of the sumac (Rhus) family. There are a number native to Texas, and in the Dallas area, introduced species are probably numerous. You might start here and see whether you can narrow it down further.

Consider also taking a leaf (the whole thing, not just a leaflet) into a local garden center and see whether your local plant gurus might know it by sight.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:36 PM on August 13, 2006

It's not Tree of Heaven, btw. Was going to put that in my original post, but removed it without previewing. Ailanthus altissima has a little "tooth" down by the leaf stem that's a dead giveaway (photo here).
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:39 PM on August 13, 2006

Tree of Heaven (which does seem to be an invasive sumac)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:43 PM on August 13, 2006

Track down the County Agent, if the garden shop isn't sure, they will be.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:45 PM on August 13, 2006

Number 3: The Larch
posted by Gungho at 8:38 PM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm not at all a plant person, but the first one sorta looks like poison sumac to me. (This page is about poison sumac in Texas, specifically.) Here's another picture if it helps. (It does look to me like poison sumac has shinier leaves and more of a red stem, but, as I said, I know very little about plants.)
posted by fogster at 10:56 PM on August 13, 2006

Or Mockernut hickory maybe? You can see that, up close it has serrated edges, just like your plant (the first one). Here is a handy 'key' to knowing the specifics of hickories. (Haven't used one of those since 'earth sciences' in middle school!)
posted by fogster at 11:18 PM on August 13, 2006

it's almost certainly not poison sumac. poison sumac has berries and grows exclusively in very wet or flooded soil, i.e. swamps and peat bogs (according to wikipedia).
posted by noloveforned at 6:20 AM on August 14, 2006

#1 kinda looks like a young pecan.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:07 AM on August 14, 2006

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