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Go Back   BHM Forum > Homesteading > Plants > Farm/ Garden/Flowers/ Shrubs/ Trees

Farm/ Garden/Flowers/ Shrubs/ Trees If it grows in the soil, this is the forum.

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  #1  
Old 12-19-2008, 12:15 AM
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cubcadet Male cubcadet is offline
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Default Foul Smelling Shrub

I have lived in the Endless Mountains region of Northeastern PA for about 9 years or so, and have in that time, noticed that there are many strange natural
odors, not all are bad, in this area, that I never detected in any other place I`ve lived.
There is one odor, quite foul, which starts in summer. Until this year, the year 2008, I could not find it`s source, until one day, while tooling down a state highway that runs adjacent to Stillwater Reservoir in Susquehanna County. It is the very distinct odor of urine. I`ve only smelled this particular odor during a demonstration I happened to attend in New York City, across from St. Patrick`s Cathedral, on the corner of 33rd St. The summer sun was baking the pavement, thus releasing the smell.
Anyhow, I say this, only to tell that, as I was passing the reservoir in PA, that this very same fetid aroma was coming through the windows. And, yes, it was summer. That was that! I stopped the truck. I was determined to find out what was making that smell. I walked up and down the highway, my eyes on the ground, looking for wet spots, knowing I lived in horse country. Gradually, the odor got very strong. I looked to my right and noticed this line of shrubs pretty far off the roadbed. I went down and grabbed a branch and broke it off. The leaves were dime sized, teardrop shaped, dark grayish green, kind of leathery with fine hairs, and there were these small, pale yellowish trumpet shaped flowers. Bingo! I found the source of that odor! Can anyone tell me if they have any such shrub growing in their area. This shrub really stinks like old urine. I`ve been on a few gardening forums and no one knows what I`m talking about.
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  #2  
Old 12-19-2008, 12:27 AM
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CarolAnn Female CarolAnn is offline
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Default Re: Foul Smelling Shrub

Cubcadet - as I read your post, I thought of my truck driving days and how the road to the weigh stations always smelled like that - but it wasn't SHRUBS, it was truckers who'd had to wait in line too long with no porta potties! Now that I've given you that unpleasant mental image, I'll apologize and go dig out my tree and shrub books to see what I can find from your description!

OK -- the plant that came to mind was cascara segrada;
Here's a clip from wikipedia: -

Rhamnus purshiana (Cascara Buckthorn, Cascara, Bearberry, and in the Chinook Jargon, Chittam or Chitticum; syn. Frangula purshiana, Rhamnus purshianus) is a species of buckthorn native to western North America from southern British Columbia south to central California, and inland to western Montana.

It is the largest species of buckthorn, occasionally growing up to 15 m tall, though more commonly a large shrub or small tree 510 m tall, with a trunk 2050 cm in diameter. The bark is brownish to silver-grey with light splotching. The leaves are deciduous, alternate, clustered near the ends of twigs; they are oval, 515 cm long and 25 cm broad with a 0.62 cm petiole, dark shiny green on top, fuzzy and paler green below. The flowers are tiny, 45 mm diameter, with five greenish yellow petals; the flowering season is brief, disappearing by early summer. The fruit is a berry 610 mm diameter, bright red at first, quickly maturing deep purple or black, and containing three seeds.

It grows in moist, acidic soils in the shady side of clearings or in the marginal forest understory, near the edges of mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. It typically grows as a second-generation tree after alders have colonized a barren plot of land.


This is a Western plant, but from your description, it could be in the buckthorn family. If you can get to the plant again, check to see if you can find some fruiting parts, leaves, and get more of a bark description. I've found that my plant books rarely have any mention of the plant's odor! I suspect that is because they're written from dead samples found in aboretum - museum collections, more often than by people out in the field with the live plants.

Next, I googled "what shrub stinks like urine?" and found this suggestion for someone with stinky shrubs:
I'm betting you have boxwoods planted in that area. They are very pretty shrubs, but can have a strong odor that smells like cat urine. There isn't much you can do about it but remove the plants. I have a beautiful hedge of boxwoods under my bay window, and I put up with the smell because they look so nice. But when the windows are open the house does smell like cat urine!
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Old 12-20-2008, 09:34 PM
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Default Re: Foul Smelling Shrub

Hey thanks CarolAnn,
I have found a shrub on my property which looks like the one I saw at the reservoir. I have to wait until summer to see what color flower it has. I believe these shrubs sometimes bloom twice. Your description doesn`t sound like the ones I saw. There is a shrub that is called boxwood here in the east. It does not smell bad. Juniper, an evergreen shrub with sharp needles, smells like cat piss. In different areas, plants are called by different names. I tried googling like you did- with no results. I even asked my neighbors. What I think has happened is like the story of the hog farmer who had a guy get a flat tire near his place. He went out to help him get the spare onto his car. He thanked him and asked him what that horrible smell was. The farmer said,"What smell?" People around here are just so used to smelling it, they don`t smell it anymore.
Joe
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Old 12-30-2008, 06:27 PM
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Default Re: Foul Smelling Shrub

Try taking a sample of the plant to your local county extension agent. I am betting they will know what it is.
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Old 12-30-2008, 10:56 PM
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Default Re: Foul Smelling Shrub

Hey mtwildflower,
Thanks for the input. I have thought of doing this. Unfortunately, I live too far from the conservation district office. It`s not a very pressing issue for me. I suspect that it would be a waste of time. Those bureaucrats in that office are only interested in promoting the so- called No-Till approach to planting. All they are, in my opinion, are paid spokesmen for Monsanto. They promote Roundup spraying and Terminator GM seed BIGTIME. One fellow I spoke to, when I mentioned that I was an organic grower, couldn`t hide his distain, and kind of snickered back at me. I knew what side his bread is buttered on, when I saw that he had US Government plates on his truck.
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