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 Poisonous Plants Questions

Non-toxic plants for dog yard from Freeport PA
June 24, 2012 - I'm looking for wildlife-friendly native plants that aren't toxic to dogs. I have a place for some small shrubs and/or flowers. And a climbing vine that I could train on a trellis would work espec...
view the full question and answer

Non-native astilbe resemblance to non-native poisonous castor bean from Tomslake BC
May 21, 2014 - I have a plant that looks like a castor bean but it has flowers like a Younique Silvery Pink Astilbe. Need to id because castor bean is poisonous. This plant grows up to 5 feet in height. Thank you !
view the full question and answer

Is Viburnum dentatum (Chicago Lustre) toxic to horses
May 26, 2009 - Are Chicago Lustre Viburnum -- Viburnum Dentatum -- toxic to horses?
view the full question and answer

Rash resulting from cutting trees in NC.
May 08, 2012 - My boyfriend was cutting some trees yesterday. He had thorns in his hands after he was done, and today he has a rash on his legs, a fever and he feels like throwing up. Can you tell me if its symptoms...
view the full question and answer

Wild plums for jelly from Conroe TX
December 18, 2012 - Do wild plum trees grow in my area? I want to get some next summer to make plum jelly.
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center