Sunnyvale, CA

A row of these "bushes" is growing along a city street in Sunnyvale, CA.

Thumbnail by KimmyMZ Thumbnail by KimmyMZ
Castro Valley, CA

Some kind of sumac. From the Rhus genus?

Do the leaves smell?
A flower would be good for IDing.

I'd say it was an Ailanthus altissima, a distant relative of the Rhus genus, but no way would the city plant those. Would they? Though they do grow in bunches from suckering.

This message was edited Jul 31, 2021 7:14 PM

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

KimmyMZ needs to take more diagnostic images, along with the posted images of whole plants.

Seeing how these plants emerge from the ground; knowing whether the stems are smooth or hairy/pubescent/tomentose; seeing a compound leaf from stem to stern, to tell whether leaflets' morphology varies from elliptic, or if there is a terminal single leaflet or if it terminates in a pair of leaflets; etc. etc. etc.

ZilyZily notes Sumac (Rhus sp.) and Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) as strong possibilities. I'd agree with that, and in California, I'd suggest that there are likely other similes possible.

Toona sinensis can look like that, and there are probably other warmer zone plants I don't know that will, too.

Give us more detail...fragrance of leaves/stems, what the pith looks like, all that fun stuff.

Sunnyvale, CA

ZillyZilly you gave me a clue with your reply. This might be Poison Sumac because of the red stems. I don't think that the city planted these. They are "volunteers" that came up behind someone's back fence. They were cut back to the ground not long ago during sidewalk construction along this road, but quickly grew back. I'll watch for flowers, but if they are poison, I don't want to mess with them too much. I hope they are not like poison oak. If I get within 10 feet of the latter, I'll be in misery. Thanks so much for your reply.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

I think I can confidently say that this is NOT Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix). The images you've shown are no match at all; moreover, Poison Sumac is pretty much a swamp plant - hardly the conditions present there.

Rather, your description of "volunteers" that grew in an unmanaged area - which then were cut back to the ground during a construction project - is EXACTLY the behavior of Ailanthus altissima.

You won't see any flowers this year, but you will be able to observe details of these plants during dormancy and with emergence of leaves, etc. next year.

If you were willing (wear gloves, of course), you could snap off a stem of one of these. They are quite brittle, and you would be able to get a whiff of the unforgettable aroma of Tree of Heaven. You would also be able to then easily photo the whole compound leaf. The leaflets of Tree of Heaven have a distinct characteristic lobing near the base of each leaflet that sets it apart from other pinnate compound leaved species. Your couple of images seem to indicate that, but the angle of the photo doesn't give me enough indication to state that categorically.

I will say that when you know additional information (like the cutting back and rapid re-emergence) about unknown plants, tell us that at the beginning! It is extremely helpful in understanding and identification from afar.

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