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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.

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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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Saturday - November 27, 2010

From: Oak Park, CA
Region: California
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Non-poisonous Hedge for Southern California
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

What is a non-poisonous (to dogs), fast-growing, evergreen plant that I can grow as a tall screening hedge for privacy? I find differing opinions on Carolina Cherry and Podocarpus gracilior. Thank you.

ANSWER:

I checked on Carolina Cherry and Podocarpus gracilior, and I don’t really recommend either of those choices!  The Carolina Cherry [Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel): Laurel Cherry, Carolina cherry laurel, etc.] is a very attractive native tree, however the Prunus species is listed on several of the “toxic plant” lists.  So, it doesn’t fit your criteria very well.  Similarly, Podocarpus gracilior [East African Yellowwood, Fern Pine, Weeping Podocarpus] is a non-native species which was mentioned in a few web discussions as toxic [2 strikes: non-native AND possibly toxic!].

Whether a plant is toxic or not is a favorite question to Mr. Smarty Plants. What we like to recommend to you is that you survey our list of previous answers.  Note that you can directly select “poisonous plants” as a topic and many of the questions deal with their effect on pets and livestock. We have a list of references that we like to give out to review.  Below are websites that list some plants poisonous to small animals, and you can search on them. You should be warned that, especially for a non-native plant, the fact that it is not on one of these lists does not guarantee that it is not toxic.

Pet Specific:

ASPCA: Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants, The ASPCA has a list specific to dogs; Toxic and Non-toxic Plant List—Dogs, Pawprints and Purrs: Plants and Pets Toxic Listing,  Petfinder.com: Things Poisonous to Pets, Suite 101.com: Toxic Plants and Pets

More generalized and somewhat more detailed lists:

Toxic Plants of TexasPoisonous Plants of North Carolina,  Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock, University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants, Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

So, what should you do about your hedge?    The Wildflower Center has lists of native plants that are well adapted to Southern California and will serve nicely as a fast growing privacy screen.  You might like to consider some other evergreen California natives for your hedge.  Here are a few suggestions that I didn't find on any of the toxic lists:

Malosma laurina (laurel sumac) and here are photos and more information.

Morella californica (California wax myrtle) and here are photos and more information.

Ceanothus arboreus (feltleaf ceanothus) and here are photos and more information.

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus (blueblossom) and here are more photos and more information.

 

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