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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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Saturday - January 30, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Poisonous Plants
Title: Cutting back non-native oleanders affected by freeze in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

After the last hard freeze makes my oleanders look dead. Can I cut them down to the ground this time of year?

ANSWER:

If we may take this opportunity, we would like to remind you that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use, care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. Nerium oleander is native to Africa, Asia and and the Mediterranean. We realize it is widely used, but would like to point out one other characteristic of oleander that may be more important than whether it can be cut back after a frost. Nerium oleander is one of the most poisonous plants known, with all parts of the plant being toxic. Ingestion of just one leaf can cause heart attack and death. Some of the poisons it contains are cardiotonic glycoside (oldendrine), prussic acid and rutin. Skin contact with the plant can cause severe dermatitis. Burning it will release toxins that can cause intoxication. We would recommend that it be carefully removed, wearing gloves and protective clothing, bagged and disposed of properly, NOT burned nor consigned to the compost pile, where the toxins would continue to be dangerous. With all due respect, we hope they ARE dead, and that you will carefully remove everything, including the roots, to prevent their re-emergence. 

 

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