Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

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
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

Need for sunlight for Sophora secundiflora to bloom
June 22, 2007 - My mountain laurel doesn't bloom. We live in Oak Hill and planted it about seven years ago. It bloomed one year at about age three or four. Since then nothing. What can I do? It only gets indire...
view the full question and answer

Manzanita Not Growing Well
July 11, 2016 - Dear Mr Smarty Plants, I have a four native Dr. Hurd manzanitas growing in my yard, which I planted three years ago. Three seem quite happy with lots of foliage. The fourth has foliage only on this ye...
view the full question and answer

A suggestion for a native small tree for San Diego
September 23, 2010 - Another good suggestion for a native small tree for San Diego - Garrya veatchii - Southern Silktassle. It's really gorgeous!
view the full question and answer

Live oaks dying in Austin, TX?
February 03, 2011 - I had my live oak trees trimmed in October(it had been over 5 years) by a reputable Austin company. The tree canopies were not very thick to begin with, but throughout the winter, some trees have los...
view the full question and answer

What are the native fruit-bearing plants in North America?
February 16, 2010 - What are the native fruit-bearing plants in North America?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.