En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - March 27, 2014

From: Taylor, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Poisonous Plants, Wildflowers
Title: Butterfly Garden, non-poisonous to Dogs, in Taylor MI
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I have a small fenced yard with a patio that my dogs have free access to. I would like to create a butterfly garden and add other plants that are non toxic to my dachshunds. Any suggestions. I am from near Detroit, Mi. Thanks.

ANSWER:

  Mr Smarty Plants is going to split this question into two parts, information on selecting plants for a butterfly garden, then how to investigate if those plants are poisonous to dogs.

  The wildflower center has lots of information on Butterfly gardens.  There is a How-to Article, and a Step by Step Guide describing  How to Raise a Butterfly.  To find good plants for your butterfly garden, the Center has lists of Native Plants that are recommended for all the states, and also several specific ecoregions.  This link is to the list for MI, with it already reduced to just the Herbs [of which many are Wildflowers]. 
   Here’s where the fun reading starts! This is as far as the automated searching will take you, but the record that comes up for each wildflower will often state explicitly under “Wildlife” whether they are good for butterflies – and if they are poisonous.   Here are the plants that I found:
Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)
Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger)  [irritant]
Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium (Fireweed)
Chelone glabra (White turtlehead)
Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)
Desmodium canadense (Showy tick trefoil)
Eupatorium perfoliatum (Common boneset)
Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)
Heuchera richardsonii (Richardson's alumroot)   and this is just the first half of the alphabet

I am listing separately these Milkweeds, they are famous as food sources for the Monarch Butterfly, but unfortunately they are also considered poisionous
Asclepias incarnata (Swamp milkweed)Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed), Asclepias verticillata (Whorled milkweed)

   On the second question – are the plants toxic to dogs – Mr Smarty Plants has addressed that question several times before.  Rather than just rewriting those question/answer pairs, I have links to several of the better ones here [pay attention to the resources and methods rather than the specific question]:
Evergreen trees for California that are non-toxic for dogs
Is non-native mascagnia macroptera poisonous to animals from Hockley TX
Are the berries of Gun bumelia poisonous to dogs from Willow Park TX
Are magnolia trees toxic for dogs? 
Juniperus Toxic to Pets? 

Unfortunately, the process then is to compare the plants you want to use to the ones on the lists.  If you find one, then you can be reasonably sure that the plant is poisonous as described, but not finding a plant does not guarantee that it is not poisonous. [Too many negatives, but I hope you understand!]  The ASPCA list has the benefit of being specific to dogs.  I used the Canadian list and the one from the University of Illinois which are more generic poisionous rather than specific to dogs because they are more easily searched.  There I found mention [Canadian list] of the Asarium Canadense, but everything else, including the specific species of milkweed, did not show. To my mind - better safe than sorry - and I would exclude these plants [Asarium Canadense and Asclepias Sp.] unless they can be isolated from your dogs.

Happy searching, you have lots of good choices available!

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Fireweed
Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium

White turtlehead
Chelone glabra

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

Showy tick trefoil
Desmodium canadense

Common boneset
Eupatorium perfoliatum

Swamp milkweed
Asclepias incarnata

Canadian wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

More Wildflowers Questions

Seeding time for wildflower annuals and perennials in New York
October 27, 2006 - We have a large area of open land in front of our house and would like to dedicate part of it to wildflowers. I purchased some perenial seeds and would like to know if I can plant these this fall? T...
view the full question and answer

Latest time to mow bluebonnets from Chappell Hill TX
February 13, 2014 - The past few years, my bluebonnets have been overwhelmed by tall grass. I could have solved this by mowing later, but I was always afraid of mowing new bluebonnet plants. When is the latest time I can...
view the full question and answer

Wildflower seeds to plant in summer in Austin
July 01, 2010 - Are there any wildflower seeds that can be planted during the summer months in Austin, TX?
view the full question and answer

Will maroon and Texas Bluebonnets prosper in Richland MO?
July 02, 2013 - I live in Richland, MO and have obtained both Maroon and Texas Bluebonnet seeds from Fredricksburg, TX. Will they prosper in this area and when is the best time to plant? I have read how and what type...
view the full question and answer

Sowing additional wildflower and grass seeds on steep hillside
January 30, 2006 - Mr. Smarty, we recently moved to Hot Springs, AR. We have about a 1000 sf hillside area too steep to plant with shrubs etc. We had wildflower seeds scattered last May in this area and the flowers we...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center