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Mystery Leaf
Mystery Leaf  
Hello Melissa

My NWF Field Guide to Trees of North America boasts covering 700 species, but fails to identify a tree newly planted on a parkway in Chicago.  The folks who planted the tree never answer their door.  

I found another tree with such leaves in the Cook County Forest Preserve yesterday.  Attached is a photo of an average to large specimen.  It grows on the branch as a simple alternate leaf.  In the photo you can see it is ovate with lobed base, has a pointed tip with toothed margins.

Do you know this tree?



Dear Pete, I am absolutely not sure about this leaf.  It is often difficult to identify plants by one leaf only, although your description of a simple alternate leaf is helpful.  I'm pretty sure that this is either a fruitless mulberry or some type of cottonwood.  If it's a cottonwood, its fall colors will likely be more yellow.  You might look up the shapes of fruitless mulberry (rounded, not too tall) against cottonwoods (generally taller and more pointed) and see if that helps.  I'm sorry if this information is not too helpful, but it's the best I can do.  Perhaps a picture of the tree would help.  Anyway, I hope this at least steers you in the right direction.  Good luck, Melissa

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Melissa Johnston


Plant diseases, landscaping, tropical plants, roses, herbs, plant care, grafting, horticulture, plant identification, anything about plants I can likely answer.


35 years experience in various plant businesses, 1984 Certified Texas Master Gardener.

Master Gardener Association of Texas charter member

none as of yet, but I have a plant q&a book I am in process of submitting.

Magna cum laude graduate of Texas A&M, 1978

Awards and Honors
Plant growing awards, highest grade for Texas Master Gardener graduates.

Past/Present Clients
Past member of and was very highly rated. Owned landscape company in the past, Almost Paradise, and was very successful despite little equipment, no help, and no advertising. Lived well for two years until 9/11.

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