Mystery leaf identified!
December 3, 2020
Q: I would like identification of the two leaf samples enclosed. I think the photo showing just a leaf is a sweetbay magnolia. The other I don’t know. It has some sort of fruit on it and a sample is next to the leaf. Thank you so much! – G.H., Columbus, Indiana
A: The photo showing the leaf with a fruit is Callery pear (sometimes called ornamental pear). They used to be well behaved, non-fruiting landscape plants. But in more recent years, as new cultivars were introduced into the trade, they became cross-fertile and now fruit-bearing. This species has become quite invasive, as birds and other wildlife eat the fruit and then spread the seed in their droppings. More information on Callery pear at https://www.purdue.edu/hla/sites/yardandgarden/a-pearfect-nightmare/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvnd13TJUJc
The single leaf photo cannot be identified from just the leaf. We would need to see at least a piece of the twig showing the leaf attachment and dormant buds. I don’t think it is sweetbay magnolia. The long taper at the tip of the leaf is not typical for this species; again, however, it is difficult to tell from just a single leaf, as foliage can be variable. You can compare your tree to the photos at this website. https://mlp.arboretum.purdue.edu/weboi/oecgi3.exe/INET_ECM_DispPl?NAMENUM=372&DETAIL=0&startpage=1#.X7gtfh1OkvE
If you need additional assistance with identifying the plant, you can contact your county office of Purdue Extension. You’ll find contact information for your county office at https://extension.purdue.edu/about#counties.
Author’s note: It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement from Purdue at the end of 2020. I’ve learned so much from digging into all of your questions over my 36 years as Purdue Extension’s Consumer Horticulture Specialist! I wish you all continued happy growing!