Name this shrub!


Here is a very common shrub that I see everywhere around here where I live. It has captured my attention and intrigue, but I cannot seem find out what it is. I thought I would put it out here to see if any of you readers know what it is.

The leaves have a very pleasant balsam fragrance when crushed. It smells a lot like the Sweetgum tree to me. I didn’t dare taste it, because I don’t know the potential toxicity.

Right now it has berries. A few weeks ago these berries were white flowers.


It has purple speckles on the stems… these markings make me feel extra careful about its potential toxicity. Poison hemlock has purple spots, and even though this shrub has a much different structure from the hemlock, I wonder if the speckles are a plant signature warning of poison. That may not be the case, but I do want to look into it further.


The berries are flattened spheres, not fully round. They are turning a reddish purple. The ones in the photo are still mostly green, though.


The leaves have an unusual structure that I haven’t really seen before. In between the large leaflets, there is a smaller leaf growing along the stem.


Any ideas out there for what this plant could be? Leave a comment if you have any suggestions!


Comments Name this shrub! — 11 Comments

  1. Star on  said:

    Looks like Bay Laurel.

  2. Cami Renfrow on  said:

    Elderberry, the granddaddy of backyard medicine?
    If so, you’re in for year-round treats!

  3. Cami Renfrow on  said:

    Elderberry, the granddaddy of backyard medicine? If so, you’re in for year-round treats!

  4. Cathy DeCata on  said:

    Looks like a sumac tree, but not the poisionous kind.

  5. lovinglandbase on  said:

    99% sure that it’s sumac:)

  6. Terry on  said:

    Not Elderberry (I have one in my backyard) and not Bay Laurel (got several of those)
    I would go with Sumac too.
    Now if the berries were turning red it could be Rowan.

  7. Christina on  said:

    I would go with Elderberry, there are many varieties and the picture of the stem, leaf pattern and berries look like the one I have growing in my yard. I might be wrong but doesn’t Bay Laurel have more of a waxy leaf?

    I’m curious, keep us posted as to your findings


  8. kate on  said:

    Elder has round berries not flat.

    I have a similar looking shrub growing locally that I thought was sumac but it’s low growing and the leaves have small thorns on them. How do you tell the medicinal varieties from the poisonous?

  9. tammy on  said:

    My mystery shrub is sumac!! Winged sumac to be exact. Rhus copallinum. I had looked at sumac before, but discounted it because I didn’t find any pictures with the extra leaf growing along the stem between the larger leaflets. Turns out those are called Wings.

    According to what I’ve read so far, this variety can be used similarly to other medicinal sumacs. Although he doesn’t mention this species specifically, here is some info on sumac’s medicinal properties from Matthew Wood:

    Kate, here is some info about poison sumac: It’s not even the same genus as the other sumacs and has a bit of a different structure. I’ve not found a sumac so far that has thorns as one of its identifying characteristics.

    Thanks so much to everyone who responded!! All your suggestions were very helpful to make me look closer at the different plants suggested. It’s such an adventure identifying plants! I love it!

  10. kate on  said:

    Ah good for you Tammy. It’s always so cool to figure out a new plant. Looking at all the photos I’m thinking now mine’s not sumac at all (I first tried IDing it when it was in berry). I’ll take a photo and post at Herbwifery.

  11. tammy on  said:

    Good idea, Kate. I’m sure someone there will know. I’d like to have a look too

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