I am not sure if this is or isn't poison sumac (not sure judging by other questions on here), but could someone help me id this?

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  • Where do you live? – Giacomo Catenazzi Aug 16 '19 at 7:22
  • I'm in northern NJ in the US – Kelvin Aug 16 '19 at 13:22
  • where's the berries at? – black thumb Aug 16 '19 at 16:41
  • the plant is very young. there wouldn't be berries yet in either case – Kelvin Aug 17 '19 at 16:26

It is inevitably more difficult to identify plants in their juvenile state; they can often display one characteristic which changes as they get older. The bronzy colour of your leaves is odd but some of the older leaves are changing to green. However we do have some clues even though they are few.

First is that PS needs to grow in a wet area. If you tread close to the plant and you hear a squishing sound or you know that the area is really low and always wet that counts towards PS. The surrounding weeds don't really indicate wet, they are more characteristic of normal loamy well drained soil.

The compound PS leaf has a midrib with a bright pink colour that extends some way through the petiole into the main leaflet vein. Yours does not show this.

Now look at the minor veins in the leaf, and how they head straight for the leaf margin and then start curving up towards the tip of the leaf as they branch into even smaller veins. PS does not show that curving, they head straight to the leaf margin.

The leaf margins in your photo appear to be slightly toothed. If there are teeth then this is not characteristic of PS which has smooth margins.

Having looked down quite a lot it is time to look up. Cast an eye around to see if you have trees that could have spawned this specimen. Something like ash trees or hickory. I don't think it is hickory because hickory leaflets get larger as they approach the terminal leaflet. If you see mature ash you may just have an ash seedling. Ash distinctively has leaves on the twigs opposite each other. PS leaves are alternate. Look at your specimen carefully and see whether the leaves are alternate or opposite. If I were to guess I would say you have an ash seedling; but it is easy for me to take a risk, the seedling is yours.

  • Thanks very much for the very thorough answer! – Kelvin Aug 16 '19 at 13:25
  • I agree with Colin, except for the possibility of its being an ash. Ash have fewer leaflets than the plant you've pictured. Given your location, it could be an ailanthus (tree of heaven) or possibly a walnut. I don't like the bronze leaves, though, in either case. If it's either of the two I've listed, you should get a somewhat unpleasant smell when you crush the leaves. Perhaps you'd want to use gloves for that, just in case it is poison sumac. – Jurp Aug 16 '19 at 20:30

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