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?


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 - May 14, 2011

From: Los Angeles, CA
Region: California
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Eugenia Substitutes for Southern California
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson


Is there a eugenia bush (preferable one that can grow tall) without berries. We like this plant but the berries create a problem. We live in Los Angeles, CA. Thank you.


It doesn’t look good for your quest.  Eugenia is a genus and there are 32 different species of it. The tough part for your quest is that a characteristic of the genus is a centimeter sized cherry-like fruit.

  I’m guessing you are considering a Eugenia apiculata [Shortleaf Stopper], which is present in California as an introduced species rather than as the native species which Mr SmartyPlants recommends.  The USDA shows multiple species of Eugenia in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands  but even then, mostly as introduced species. Eugenia axillaris (White stopper) is the only one native to Florida.   From the pictures it looks like all of them have berries, so it doesn’t look good for finding a nice clean, native Eugenia bush.

  How about another Myrtle that is native to California?    Morella californica (California wax myrtle)  is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to the Pacific Ocean coast.  It is on the recommended species list for southern California.  That would be the preferred native.

 On the other hand, on the species record for it’s near relative, Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) it was noted “Because there are separate male and female plants, if you want berries you must have male plants close enough to the berry-producing female plants for pollination to occur.”   This might be your chance to keep a clean sidewalk!  Unfortunately, It seems that Morella californica, California wax myrtles, unlike Morella cerifera, are monoecious, i.e., they have both male and female flowers on the same plant and thus all shrubs will produce berries. If you would like to dig deeper into this, here is a scholarly reference that discusses their fruiting.

As long as you are considering trees other than the Eugenia, you might consider Cercocarpus montanus (Alderleaf mountain mahogany).  It is evergreen and doesn't have berries.   Here's another possibility, Ceanothus megacarpus (Big-pod buckbrush) or one of the other Ceanothus spp.   I think most of the California ones are evergreen and don't have berries. 

It would be a good idea to contact your local extension office; here is the website for the LA County Extension office.  The experts there [master gardeners] should have opinions as to whether this approach can work for trees that do well in your area.


From the Image Gallery

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Alderleaf mountain mahogany
Cercocarpus montanus

More Shrubs Questions

How will my Texas Mountain Laurel survive clay soil?
June 09, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Pants: I live in a new neighborhood (brownfield site) in Central Austin where the developers have put fill in the yards. After not much more than 2 inches of topsoil you encounter fairl...
view the full question and answer

Thorny shrub for deterring break-ins in southeast Texas
February 05, 2013 - Looking for a very, very, thorny three or four foot tall shrub for in front of windows to deter break-ins. Considering Rosa Rugosa rose but it is not native.
view the full question and answer

White flowering mountain laurel from Driftwood TX
August 23, 2012 - I love white flowering mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) and want to grow one from seeds. I've had a lot of success germinating and growing purple mountain laurel from seeds (or beans), so I DO ...
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage to esperanza in pot from Brady TX
December 10, 2009 - My esperanza, currently in a container, has suffered some freeze damage. I have prepared a planting spot for it and am not sure whether to plant now, trim it back if I do plant it, etc. I would appr...
view the full question and answer

What fertilizer can make potted plants flower in Austin, TX?
July 05, 2011 - I have a Lantana and esmarelda planted in large pots. They froze last winter but have both come back strong except they do not bloom even though I have fertilized. Is there something special I need ...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center