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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."

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