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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.

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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.

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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!

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Wednesday - February 02, 2011

From: Norco, CA
Region: California
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Looking for plants for a privacy hedge, besides Ficus nitida, in Norco CA.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I am looking to plant a hedge for privacy along my property line. We have horses so I need to make sure that what I plant is not toxic. Would Ficus nitida 'Little Gem' be a good choice? If not could you recommend a fast growing hedge that would work for this application?

ANSWER:

Let me begin by stating that the mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants, and landscapes. Since Ficus nitida is a native of Borneo and Malaysia it falls outside our area of expertise, and we would be more likely to discourage its use even though it is widely used in landscapes in California and Arizona. It can become a large tree, growing up to 60' high and 30' wide, so keeping it "hedge size" would probably take a lot of work and an understanding neighbor. This link to ficusplant.org has some information about the plant, and this article from the LA Times has an interesting perspective on hedges in general.

By checking out our Native Plant Database, you can perhaps find a native alternative. After clicking on the link, scroll down to the Combination Search Box, and make the following selections: choose California under State, Shrub under Habit, and Perrenial under Duration. Check Sun under Light requirement ,and Dry under Soil moisture. Click the "Submit combination Search" button and you will get a list of 84 native species occurring in California that meet these parameters. Clicking on the name of each plant will bring up its NPIN database page that contains the plant's characteristics, its growth requirements as well as pictures.

Here are four species that might be possibilities.

Fremontodendron californicum (California flannelbush)

Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon)

Mahonia nevinii (Nevin's barberry)   More information

Rhamnus crocea (Holly-leaf buckthorn)    May not get tall enough.

In regard to toxicity to horses, the links below are databases that we use when asked about toxic plants. The four plants above are not shown to be toxic, and you can use the lists to check out other plants that you might select.

Toxic Plants of Texas

Poisonous Plants of North Carolina

Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock

University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants

Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

California Poison Action Line

For help closer to home, you might contact the folks at the Riverside County office of the University of California Cooperative Extension.

 

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