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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 - June 19, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Non-poisonous evergreen shrub for Houston playground
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I would like to know what type of small bush or shrub would be appropriate to plant in a children's playground in Houston, TX. It will be located in full sun. I would like it to retain its leaves year round and not have berries, and preferably not flowers that will fall off and be "messy." And not poisonous, since children might decide to put the leaves in their mouths! Thank you!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants only knows of two evergreen shrubs that 'sort of' meet your criteria and that are native to the Houston area.  Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) is one of them.  Its berries have low toxicity but only female plants have berries.  If you can be sure that you have a male plant, it would be ideal.  The flowers are small and the leaves themselves are not toxic.  In fact, the leaves can be dried and used to make yaupon tea.  Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) is another native evergreen that has separate male and female plants—the female plants have the berries and they aren't toxic.  Again, the flowers on both plants are small.  If either of these two shrubs offered for sale in the nursery was propagated from cuttings, the nursery should know if the cuttings came from a male or a female plant.

Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria

Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

 

 

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