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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 - December 30, 2005

From: Seattle, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Local native plant for grave marker in Washington
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear wildflower expert, Our friendís dog died, and is buried in western Washington, near the town of Monroe. My wife is from central Texas, and thought a Texas perennial would be a nice marker. We thought the lobelia cardinalis would be a beautiful plant, but have read it is toxic to livestock. Is it also toxic to dogs and cats? Can you suggest a suitable, flowering perennial? The site gets over 30 inches of rain per year, some snow in the winter, and the ground can freeze a few inches deep. Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

The cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is listed as toxic to humans and livestock by the Poisonous Plants Databases of the Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility and the University of Pennsylvania. It is not specifically listed as toxic to pets, but that does not necessarily mean that is safe for them.

Planting a native plant on the grave of your friend's dog would be a lovely tribute. Lobelia cardinalis is a beautiful plant native to Texas; however, it isn't native to western Washington and the Northwest and is not likely to grow very well there, if at all. Perhaps you could consider a local native plant for the tribute to your friend's dog. The Washington Native Plant Society has a list of Pacific Northwest Plants for Western Washington Gardens that offers alternatives. One possibility from the list is Sitka columbine (Aquilegia formosa). You also can find information and photos of plants on the list in the Native Plants Database on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center web page. The Washington Native Plant Society also offers a list of native plant and seed resources for the state.

 

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