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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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Thursday - December 18, 2008

From: St. Marys, , PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: Are hollies toxic?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Can I use holly from my landscaping to decorate food at Christmas?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants assumes you mean our native Ilex opaca (American holly) with its beautiful red berries.  The North Carolina Poisonous Plants Database says that the berries in large quantities from Ilex opaca can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  The Canadian Poisonous Plants Informations System agrees about the toxicity of Ilex opaca and also lists the berries of the English holly, Ilex aquifolium as being toxic.  The foliage of these two hollies, apparently, is not poisonous.  So, Mr. Smarty Plants recommends that you not put any berries on plates, platters or other containers with foods.  You might decorate tables/counters with the holly, but make sure the berries aren't in place where they might be considered a food item by children and pets—or adults, for that matter.

Ilex opaca

Ilex opaca

 

 

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