En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Friday - June 19, 2009

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


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!


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



More Shrubs Questions

Non-toxic evergreen shrub around duck pen
September 10, 2015 - I live in Zone 6a, and am looking for a non-toxic evergreen shrub to use around our fence that pens in our ducks. It doesn't have to be native to our particular state. I have 74 feet of fence on th...
view the full question and answer

Selecting a tree for a backyard in San Antonio, TX
May 11, 2013 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants, I recently moved into a home in West San Antonio right outside Loop 1604..my treeless backyard is fairly small at about 55 ft long and 15 ft wide. I am torn because I can't ...
view the full question and answer

Low Ground Cover for Steep, Shaded PA Site
February 17, 2014 - I am located in Downingtown, PA, right on the border between Zone 6 and 7. Please provide a recommendation of a native ground cover for the following conditions: steep slope (greater than 45%), full s...
view the full question and answer

Fence Shrub for Sugarland, TX
June 08, 2015 - Hello I live in Sugar Land TX, I am looking for a fast growing shrub to plant along my six foot wood fence for a privacy screen. There is not a lot of room for them to grow in width but there is pl...
view the full question and answer

Does Wax Myrtle Have a Taproot?
March 25, 2015 - Does a wax myrtle have a taproot?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center