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Friday - August 22, 2008

From: McDade, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Plants referred to as Hummingbird plants
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a a plant that is sometimes called a Hummingbird Plant, sometimes a Firecracker plant. I have also seen the name lonicera sempervirens. Are they poisonous? This is a plant, not a vine. Thank you, Marianne

ANSWER:

Lonicera sempervirens (trumpet honeysuckle) is an evergreen, perennial vine. It attracts hummingbirds, and can be invasive if not kept under control. There is no evidence to indicate that any part of that plant is poisonous, and it is native to North America.

The problem with common names, as opposed to the botanical names, for plants is that you can call a plant anything you want to, and it will mean something else to the next person. There is a plant called Firecracker Plant, Russelia equisetiformis (University of Florida Extension). Another common name for it is Coral Plant. It is a cascading, loose-growing plant, and is not native to North America but to the tropical Americas and Mexico. It is hardy from Zones 9a to 11. Again, no indications of being poisonous.

A plant commonly referred to as "Hummingbird plant" is Dicliptera suberecta (Missouri Botanical Gardens), native to Central and South America. It is hardy in Zones 7a to 11. Still not poisonous, and non-native to North America.

A native to North America, Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed), is a perennial which is a larval host and/or nectar source for Monarch and Queen butterflies. All parts of this plant ARE poisonous.  The butterfly larvae, or caterpillars, are unaffected by the cardiac glycosides produced by the plant, but the butterfly stores the substance, making them distasteful and even dangerous to predators.

In case you are considering planting one of these, McDade, in northern Bastrop County, is about Zones 7b to 8a. The only one of these plants that might not be hardy in your area is  Russelia equisetiformis.

 

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