What plant is distinctly smelly, has several fan-like, serrated leaves, and has been cultivated for centuries for both medicinal and recreational purposes, to the point of spawning an entire subculture? Gosh, we don’t know, but it seems to be growing in the wilds of Union Square Park. Anyone sensitive to the appearance of different types of plants might notice what appears to be a cluster of marijuana, one large sapling and a few smaller sprouts, in a raised garden in the park. We sent these photos to Senior Cultivation Editor Danny Danko at High Times; here's his expert opinion:

It absolutely is cannabis sativa (pot, weed, marijuana). It was either a possible accidental sort of thing where a seed was tossed out, but there's also internet chatter about planting seeds to "overgrow" the government, in as many places a possible, willy-nilly. These aren't the expensive seeds we talk about in the magazine, but seeds people find in their pot and toss.

It's kind of a 4/20 thing: a celebration and form of protest from cannabis community. This could be that or it could be it grew from seeds that were discarded. It's doubtful someone expected to harvest it; it's likely it's either accidental or a protest. We've even seen some pop up in the median on Park Avenue. The Parks Dept is usually pretty quick about getting rid of those.

And after reviewing our photos, the science team at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden told us they think it's marijuana (Cannabis sativa). However, samples we took seemed to lack the infamous smell, and the nearby herb and vegetable sellers in the Greenmarket, who perhaps might have a knowledge of such matters, were doubtful. “It’s not marijuana,” said one. “Marijuana is a five-leaf plant. This frond has seven leaves. It’s also way too big. So you may think it’s marijuana, but it’s not.” After careful deliberation, we're gonna go with the High Times guy on this.

And the Union Square pot patch isn't the only one spotted in the urban wilds recently. Ava Chin of City Room noticed a similar plant in Ditmas Park recently, in front of a doctor’s office. Convinced by its distinctive appearance, Chin speculated that it could be medical marijuana, but the friend with whom she was walking, an experienced forager, had a more down-to-earth take. “Someone probably just tossed a bud into the hedges and the seed took,” she said.

In researching this story, we looked up plants frequently mistaken for marijuana, and the one that most resembled the plant on Union Square was the Cleome hassleriana, or spider plant. The Cleome apparently flowers from late spring to early fall (it’s late spring - but the Union Square plant lacked flowers) and can be distinguished from its illegal doppelganger by small thorns on its stem (we couldn’t find any). So perhaps in the near future, Union Square’s most wily and persistent entrepreneurs—the illegal ones—could have a local source for their stash! Unless we just narced them out.

We've asked the Parks Department for a comment; until we hear back, enjoy this pertinent Parks & Recreation clip: