En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - June 12, 2010

From: Stockbridge , MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Thorny shrub to use as a barrier in Michigan
Answered by: Nan Hampton


What shrub/bush/tree would you recommend that grows fast, very thorny to act as a very strong deterrent/barrier that gets at least 4' tall? It would be in an open yet removed area from foot traffic in full sun in good dirt, not clay or sand. Can grow at will, so trimming and space are non-issues. Flowering would be a nice benefit.


The following native Michigan shrubs are armed with spines or thorns:

Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington hawthorn) has a rapid growth rate when young, but slows as it ages, according to the US Forest Service.

Zanthoxylum americanum (common pricklyash) is fast-growing. Here is more information and a photo.

Shepherdia argentea (silver buffaloberry) has a rapid growth rate.

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose) has a moderate growth rate.

Rosa palustris (swamp rose) has a moderate growth rate.

Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus (grayleaf red raspberry) has a moderate growth rate.

Also, nearly all species of Rubus (blackberries, raspberries, dewberries, etc.) with the exception of the thimbleberries (Rubus odoratus (purpleflowering raspberry) and Rubus parviflorus (thimbleberry)) have thorns.  To see the other ones that are native to Michigan, use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option and select Michigan from the SELECT STATE OR PROVINCE category on the Rubus sp. page.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:

Crataegus phaenopyrum

Shepherdia argentea

Rosa carolina

Rosa palustris

Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus






More Shrubs Questions

Poolside plants for East Texas
June 18, 2015 - What are the best plants, shrubs, ornamental trees, etc. for poolside planting in East Texas?
view the full question and answer

Plants for a lakeside bank in NC
November 07, 2011 - Our association is looking to plant a huge sloped area that runs down to Lake Wylie. We want to plant something that is good for erosion and that does not grow too tall so that we keep our view of th...
view the full question and answer

Mountain Laurel having trouble in AZ
June 07, 2011 - A Sophora secundflora (Texas mountain laurel) was planted to an Arizona north faced front yard last year in August under full sun. Starting early this year, I noticed its leaves turn to light green an...
view the full question and answer

Orange rhododendrons for Millinocket ME
June 15, 2012 - Where will I find orange rhododendron in Maine? Or orange rhododendron that will thrive in Maine?
view the full question and answer

Problems with native palms in Austin
April 10, 2011 - We had a large variety of California fan palms and blue sabal palms in our yard that were damaged during the last freeze. We found that several of them now have "spear pull," which means we could p...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center