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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

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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Monday - September 14, 2009

From: Riverside, CA
Region: California
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Is the non-native California pepper tree (Schinus molle) toxic for horses?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Is it safe and a good idea to put a horse corral around an established California pepper tree? Thank you, Mr. Smarty Plants

ANSWER:

Schinus molle (California pepper tree), despite its common name, is native to Peru and not California nor North America.  We, at the Wildflower Center, are dedicated to studying, preserving and promoting plants native to North America so this plant is really not in our purview.  We can offer you some reliable sources for determining if this tree is toxic to livestock, however.  First, all parts of the tree have been used traditionally in herbal medicine. However, Poisonous Plants Commonly Ocurring in Southern California by Owen E. Dell does list Schinus molle. The Toxic Plants list from the University of California-Davis and the Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD) both say that California pepper tree causes dermatitis. The BoDD also says that the ingested fruits can cause gastro-intestinal inflammation and hemorrhoids and the Biodiversity Explorer says:  "Fruit are used for producing red pepper but can be toxic if eaten in quantity."  There are other references that also say the red fruits are toxic if eaten in quantity; so, it would seem that at the very least it would be a good idea to remove as many as possible of the seeds from the tree and of those that have fallen to the ground underneath it to keep the horse from having access to them in large quantities.

 

 

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