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A seedling has popped up in one of my planters (acid soil; Toronto, Ontario).

What is it?


June 4, 2020:

enter image description here


June 20, 2020:

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ it's a kind of tree, perhaps a kind of oak. ask.extension.org/questions/332861 $\endgroup$ – aliential Jun 4 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ @com.prehensible The leaves look opposite. Are there Oaks with opposite leaves? $\endgroup$ – Wilson Jun 5 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ Yes i wasn't that convinced either that it's an oak, it just has a lot in common and also some differences. You could tell straight away from it's woodyness and toughness if its a tree by feeling it, if its twiggy its a tree, time will tell. $\endgroup$ – aliential Jun 6 at 17:39
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An extension of com.prehensible's comment -- your sapling could be a bur oak. It is older than the seedling pictured below, but retains a similar cotyledon. The range of this species includes Ontario.

seedling bur oak

bur oak seedling
Photo by Todd Dwyer, via Flickr
(please ignore the image artifact -- an effect of resizing)

Your photo appears to show the tree at a stage after the seedling shown above and before the more mature sapling shown here:

sapling bur oak

bur oak sapling
Photo by John T. Fowler, Alamy Stock Photo

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! For what it's worth, an aquaintance had this comment: "...I don't think it's an oak of any species, since it has normal cotyledon (seed) leaves above ground. Oak cotyledons are modified to store food for the seedling, so they don't resemble leaves and usually don't emerge from the acorn. I don't think the example photo posted to Stack Exchange is an oak either." ... Food for thought? $\endgroup$ – Wilson Jun 5 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ Seedling emergence patterns - PDF: "...the cotyledons remain underground and the stem (epicotyl) emerges above ground. This pattern is called hypogeous. Large seeded plants like Kentucky coffeetree and oaks tend to have hypogeous germination." $\endgroup$ – Wilson Jun 5 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ ..."the first photo is not an oak. The second one (the older plant) is an oak, but the bristles on the leaf lobes mean it's not a bur oak." $\endgroup$ – Wilson Jun 5 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ A diagram from The Woody-plant Seed Manual - United States Forest Service -- Google Books link here. $\endgroup$ – Wilson Jun 5 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Wilson it sounds like your acquaintance is quite knowledgable! I don’t suppose you can convince her/him to make an account on biology.SE? ;) $\endgroup$ – Dirigible Jun 5 at 20:07
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With regard to the seedling being an oak, just gently excavate around the stem - the acorn will still be there to identify. You can do this without hurting the roots.

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The hairy stem and leaf pattern remind me of elms. Wikipedia has an example of american elm seedlings which look quite similar to what you have to me:

Seedlings of Ulmus americana

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