En Español

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?


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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - June 17, 2014

From: Wellfleet, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Lists, Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Screening Plants for Cape Cod
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


I need to plant some fairly high growing leafy plants/bushes/trees for privacy and as a sound barrier in (the remains of) a pine forest in Cape Cod, MA. The pines grow tall and skinny so that we can see/hear right through to our neighbors. Black walnut do grow in between the pines, but they are invasive so not good for our purposes.


Thanks for considering native plants to create a screen in your pine forest in Cape Cod. In addition to having lots of seedlings, black walnuts also secrete a substance called Juglone that is toxic to many other plants and keeps away any competition – so you are smart to be wary of this tree.
To find a list of native plants to consider as interplants to create a privacy screen, the best place to start is the Lady Bird Johnson Native Plant Database. Under the Combination Search, select Massachusetts, shrub (then tree), perennial, shade, dry and 3-12 feet tall. There are several shrubs and trees that are the result of this search criteria that you might consider.
Alnus viridis ssp. crispa (green alder)
Amelanchier arborea (common serviceberry)
Amelanchier bartramiana (oblongfruit serviceberry)
Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny serviceberry)
Amelanchier sanguinea (roundleaf serviceberry)
Amelanchier stolonifera (running serviceberry)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Cornus rugosa (roundleaf dogwood)
Corylus americana (American hazelnut)
Witch hazel:
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Ilex opaca (American holly), evergreen
Ilex verticillata (common winterberry)
Lindera benzoin (Northern spicebush)
Morus rubra (red mulberry)
Physocarpus opulifolius (Atlantic ninebark)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Prunus virginiana (chokecherry)
Wafer ash:
Ptelea trifoliata (wafer ash)
Rhus aromatic (fragrant sumac)
Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)
Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)
Rosa setigera (climbing prairie rose)
Taxus canadensis (Canada yew)
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum)
Viburnum rafinesquianum (downy arrowwood)


From the Image Gallery

Oblongfruit serviceberry
Amelanchier bartramiana

Allegheny serviceberry
Amelanchier laevis

Roundleaf serviceberry
Amelanchier sanguinea

Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

American hazelnut
Corylus americana

Witch hazel
Hamamelis virginiana

American holly
Ilex opaca

Common winterberry
Ilex verticillata

Atlantic ninebark
Physocarpus opulifolius

Black cherry
Prunus serotina

Wafer ash
Ptelea trifoliata

Mapleleaf viburnum
Viburnum acerifolium

More Trees Questions

Trees for barrier fence near swimming pool in West Virginia
March 10, 2010 - Near swimming pool, barrier fence needs to replace pine trees. Prefer blooming perennial at least 12' high,low sun exposure, minimal pruning.
view the full question and answer

Recently planted Chinquapin Oak with browning leaves in Marlin, TX.
July 31, 2012 - We planted a Chinquapin Oak this in March 2012. As of July 21, 2012, the tips of the leaves on the lower branches are turning brown. We cannot see any insects. There does not appear to be any fungu...
view the full question and answer

Fertilizing oaks to produce more acorns
March 04, 2009 - What type of fertilizer would I use on oak trees to possibly increase growth and acorn production ? I have some flooded oak timber that is home to migrating ducks but there is little for them to eat.
view the full question and answer

Tree with tap root for small area
August 24, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: I'm looking for a tree with a tap root to plant for shade on the side of my patio. i have about a 4 foot area to plant in and it's 8 feet to my neighbors house. ..maybe somet...
view the full question and answer

Why is non-native peach tree not going dormant in Owensville IN
December 19, 2011 - I have a peach tree I grew from a peach pit. It is about 2 years old. I planted the tree in my yard this summer. It is now about 3' tall. My problem is it is not going dormant. We have had several fr...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center