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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.

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

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Saturday - November 03, 2007

From: Friday Harbor, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Is Carolina laurel (Prunus caroliniana) a good choice for San Juan Islands, Washington?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What are the prospects for Carolina laurel here on San Juan Island, mixed in with thin stand of douglas fir, about 50 feet from shore, eastern exposure? Water is available but little sun because of larger trees. We're hoping to create a screen between us and the neighbors. Thank you, oh mighty green guru!

ANSWER:

Well, unfortunately, Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry) is native only to the southeastern and southern U.S. and Texas and California. It is very unlikely that it would thrive on the San Juan Islands. There are other Prunus species that are native to the northwest—Prunus virginiana (chokecherry), Prunus emarginata (bitter cherry) and Prunus subcordata (Klamath plum)—but all of these are deciduous and Mr. SP is almost certain that you are looking for an evergreen, right?

Here are some alternative possibilities for evergreen shrubs/trees that are native to San Juan County, Washington:

1. Arctostaphylos columbiana (Hairy manzanita) reaches 5-10 feet. You can see more photos of Arctostaphylos columbiana from Oregon State University.

2. Vaccinium ovata (Evergreen huckleberry) grows up to 10 feet tall.

3. Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone) can grow to be a large tree (up to 100 feet); but, of course, it does start smaller and takes a while to get to its full height.

4. Taxus brevifolia (Pacific yew) is another evergreen native to the San Juans that can grow to 50 feet, but is slow growing.

5. Gaultheria shallon (salal) grows to 1-4 feet.

6. Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry) grows 3-6 feet tall.

The Green Guru hopes you can find an acceptable alternative to Carolina laurel among these.

 

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