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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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Friday - May 08, 2009

From: Ogden, UT
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Will a non-native smoke tree, Cotinus coggygria, be harmful in Utah
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Can one plant a smoke tree in Utah without causing and harm to the environment? I'm worried that this plant may be a species that could cause a problem since I believe it is not a native plant.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants supposes you are talking about Cotinus coggygria (common smoketree), which is native to Eurasia, and not Psorothamnus spinosus (smoketree), which is native to the Sonoran Desert in your neighbor states of California, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico; or Cotinus obovatus (American smoketree), native to Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.  Since what we're all about here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is "to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes", we wouldn't recommend planting a non-native tree.  However, the Eurasian smoketree (C. coggygria) doesn't appear on any invasive lists as far as I have been able to find and probably doesn't pose a real threat to the environment.  The American smoketree (C. obovatus) isn't native to Utah, but it is native to the US as far west as eastern Texas.  It will grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8 and might do fine in Ogden, but we wouldn't even recommend planting a native tree so far out of its native range.  Your best bet for a successful tree is one that is native to your area.  Here are a few of similar size to the Eurasian smoketree that occur in or adjacent to Weber County, Utah.

Amelanchier utahensis (Utah serviceberry)

Cornus sericea ssp. sericea (redosier dogwood)

Maclura pomifera (osage orange)

Prunus americana (American plum)

Ptelea trifoliata (common hoptree)

Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)

Sambucus racemosa (red elderberry)


Amelanchier utahensis

Cornus sericea ssp. sericea

Maclura pomifera

Prunus americana

Ptelea trifoliata

Rhus typhina

Sambucus racemosa

 

 

 

 

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