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
2 ratings

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.

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Non-native astilbe resemblance to non-native poisonous castor bean from Tomslake BC
May 21, 2014 - I have a plant that looks like a castor bean but it has flowers like a Younique Silvery Pink Astilbe. Need to id because castor bean is poisonous. This plant grows up to 5 feet in height. Thank you !
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac
July 30, 2011 - How can I rid my yard of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac? I have tried roundup, poison ivy roundup and even a clorox solution and nothing seems to kill it, I keep seeing it come up. Any help ...
view the full question and answer

Is Desert willow poisonous to horses in Boerne TX
July 17, 2009 - I have just purchased Bubba Desert Willows and have horses. Will they eat them, do you know and if so will they be harmed? Thanks
view the full question and answer

Evergreen pet-safe shrubs for house and screening in McKinney TX
April 15, 2010 - Looking for shrub, preferably evergreen, to plant near the house that can handle wet ground and is pet (dog, cat, horse) safe. The area became boggy after we had an underground water leak that is now ...
view the full question and answer

Are variegated ginger plants poisonous to cats?
June 16, 2009 - Is a variegated ginger plant poisonous to cats?
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