Stinky NM bush?

Bellingham(z8 WA)August 18, 2005

This is one of those "drive you crazy" things. I used to live in the South Valley of Albuquerque, and I recall a tree or shrub that grew along the ditch banks that smelled sort of rotten/sweet. Very strong scent. I found it not very pleasant. I cannot for the life of me remember what it was called, and I never did determine where the smell came from, so I don't know what it looked like.

Any Albuquerqeans care to guess? This stuff was all over the Bosque.

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The smell's never seemed all that strong to me, but skunk bush seems likely. "Skunk bush" is a name actually used for two separate, unrelated species, both of which happen to smell bad and have compound leaves with three leaflets... one of them, Rhus trilobata, is related to poison ivy and is usually fairly short (4-5 feet at most), with deeply toothed/lobed leaflets. The other, Ptelea trifoliata, is related to oranges, has entire or very shallowly toothed leaflets, and can get 10-15 feet tall. To my nose, the Ptelea is reasonably strongly scented if you've got a good stand of them, but the Rhus' scent is pretty weak. I haven't spent much time in the Albuquerque area, so I don't have any idea which, if either, of these would be common along ditches in the area.

Patrick Alexander

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 11:22PM
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Bellingham(z8 WA)

Thanks, Patrick. I'm not sure. I keep thinking that it might be Russian Olive, but all the descriptions I read say, "pleasant scent." It's not that it's an immediately horrible smell, so I don't think it would have the common name "skunk" for example. It's sort of like Ligustrum on steroids. Not really bad, but not really good either. Definately strong.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 12:03AM
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Ah. Yeah, Russian olive fits that kind of description of the smell. The best examples of that kind of smell I can think of offhand would be chestnut and Bradford pear trees, but I can't think of any reason either of those would be in ditches near Albuquerque.

Patrick Alexander

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 5:35PM
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Bellingham(z8 WA)

If Russian Olive smells like my description, then I'll bet that is it. Apparently, it is an invasive species in NM, and it does invade the Bosque, particularly near the ditch banks and river.

I'm still puzzled by the descriptions I've seen on the internet, calling it "pleasant," but I suppose smell is a subjective thing.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 6:24PM
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I personally hate the fragrance of blooming Russian olive, so I would give you that one. I'm also allergic to the pollen, as are many, so consider it a doubly noxious invasive species. Another invader that blooms is tamarisk, but I don't recall what the fragrance is like, nor do I recall the foilage being scented.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 1:05PM
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