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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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Wednesday - May 26, 2010

From: Katy, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Evergreen large shrub/small tree for screen in Houston
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live on the west side of Houston Tx. I need an evergreen large shrub or shorter tree between myself and a busy neighborhood road. There is a power line above this so we would like something that either grows 20 - to 30 ft or when chopped at the top by the power company, it will not compromise the growth or appearance of the plant. Something that blooms would be better but not necessary. p.s. have two lovely dogs so do not want to compromise their safety either w/poisonous fruit, etc. thanks so much!

ANSWER:

Here are five native possibilities that could work for you:

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) grows 12 to 25 feet

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) grows 6 to 12 feet

Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar) generally 30 to 40 feet, but can be pruned into a hedge

Ehretia anacua (knockaway) maximum height 20 to 45 feet with fragrant flowers

Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay) semi-evergreen, generally 12 to 20 feet, with showy flowers

There are several databases to consult for plant toxicity.  The ASPCA has a list specific to dogs, Toxic and Non-toxic Plant List—Dogs. There are several others that we use, as well:

Toxic Plants of Texas 

Poisonous Plants of North Carolina

Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock

University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants

Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

None of the trees I recommended are on the ASPCA list but I did find two species of Ilex—Ilex opaca (American holly) and the non-native Ilex aquifolium (European or English holly)—and one Magnolia—Magnolia stellata (star magnolia), a native of Japan—listed by the ASPCA.  Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) is listed on the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina database, referring to the berries, as "causes only mild toxicity if eaten".  A male specimen of this tree does not produce berries.  The fleshy cones (we usually call them "berries") of Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar) are also listed as mildly toxic if eaten.  Again, male trees won't have berries.  None of the other three trees appears on any of the toxic plant databases and neither the eastern redcedar nor the yaupon appears on any of the toxic plant databases other than the one from the University of North Carolina.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Ilex vomitoria

Morella cerifera

Juniperus virginiana

Ehretia anacua

Magnolia virginiana

 

 

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