En EspaŅol

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?

Share

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - September 18, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Cherry laurels next to retaining wall in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My neigbors have 2 cherry laurel trees in their back yard planted within 4 feet of my retaining wall and fence. I am worried the root system will damage my retaining wall. The branches are already pushing on the fence. Should I be concerned that the root system will severely damage my retaining wall? The trees are currently only 3 years old and already 20' tall.

ANSWER:

  
Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel)  is a fast-growing shrub, native to the Austin area, and can grow to 40 ft. high. That having been said, we could find no evidence of the roots being particularly damaging to structures. Since it tends to be tall and lanky, even though the roots of most woody plants extend beyond the size of the tree above, we don't feel this plant will be any threat to your retaining wall. It makes a very nice evergreen privacy screen behind your retaining wall. It doesn't like pruning, but we don't believe that the branches pushing against your fence are going to damage it unless the fence is in really bad condition. The only comment we would make about the cherry laurel is taken from the page on this plant in our Native Plant Database:

"Warning: The seeds, twigs, and leaves of all Prunus species contain hydrocyanic acid and should never be eaten. Leaves of Prunus caroliniana are particularly high in this toxin. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil."

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Prunus caroliniana

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Toxicity of catalpa wood?
June 05, 2012 - Is the sawdust from cutting up a catalpa tree or the smoke from burning the wood toxic? Thank you,
view the full question and answer

Problem with Prosopis glandulosa (Honey mesquite)
February 27, 2014 - One of our mature Honey Mesquite trees is losing thumb sized branches high up in the canopy because something is stripping the bark. The branches are completely white for 8-12 inches. Of course the ...
view the full question and answer

Pollenless Cedar Elms for Georgetown, Texas
September 28, 2010 - I am considering planting the Cedar Elm tree at my home in Georgetown, Texas. I was under the impression that only the female of the species produces the irritating pollen. Is this true?
view the full question and answer

Double trunks on bur oaks in Houston
March 15, 2010 - I am involved in a garden club propagation project. One of the trees we have had success propagating is the Bur Oak. Two of these baby Bur Oaks have multi trunks..one has two and the other has three....
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for trees to withstand high winds on Top Sail Island, North Caroloina.
August 20, 2013 - Moving to coastal southern North Carolina. Planting native trees and shrubs, wax bayberry, Redbud, love the River Birch. What type of tree has the deepest roots or would be least likely to blow over...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center