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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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Wednesday - May 28, 2008

From: Redondo Beach, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: Native trees for small backyard in California
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a small backyard and very close to my neighbor. I want to plant trees that grow 15/20 high that can work as a screen although I have to be very careful with invasive roots. Also I have two small kids that love to be outside. Any suggestion?

ANSWER:

Here are a few suggestions for large shrubs/small trees that should work well.  Dr. Connie Vadheim, a professor at California State University and a specialist in native plants of the area, provided suggestions for the selections below.   These all are found in Los Angeles County, California.

Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry), 3-18 feet tall, deciduous

Comarostaphylis diversifolia (summer holly), up to 20 feet, evergreen

Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon), 8-20 feet tall, evergreen

Juniperus californica (California juniper), 10-15 feet, evergreen, photos from CalFlora

Morella californica (California wax myrtle), 10-25 feet, evergreen, photos and more information from University of Washington, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (birchleaf mountain mahogany), 8-20 feet, semi-evergreen

Cornus nuttallii (Pacific dogwood), 15-40 feet, deciduous

Cupressus forbesii (tecate cypress) around 20 feet high, evergreem and here are photos

Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. aspleniifolius (Catalina ironwood), 30-50 feet, evergreen and here are photos

Umbellularia californica (California laurel), up to 40 feet, evergreen

According to the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina or Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database, none of the plants above has any toxic parts that you should be concerned about for your children.

You can find other suggestions for native plants by visiting our "Recommended Species" page and choosing Southern California from the map.


Amelanchier alnifolia

Comarostaphylis diversifolia

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber

Cornus nuttallii

Umbellularia californica

 

 

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