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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 - August 20, 2011

From: Hanahan, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: Is Savannah Holly poisonous to burn in Hanahan, SC.?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Can you please tell me if the wood from a savannah holly bush is poisonous to burn?

ANSWER:

 The questions that we usually get about poisonous plants deal with the ingesting  of plant material, so this brings up a new perspective.

Savannah Holly (Ilex attenuata) is a hybrid of Ilex opaca (American holly) and Ilex cassine . A look through a couple of poisonous plant databases( University of Arkansas  and the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System ) indicates that several members of the genus Ilex are toxic but none specifically list Ilex attenuata. The toxic principal ( a glycoside) usually causes nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, and in some cases, it is the berries that contain most of the toxin.

Since the site of the toxic interaction is in the digestive tract, it seems unlikely that the amount of toxin in smoke from burning the wood would have any effect. However, I would err on the side of caution and avoid burning the wood if possible.

On the subject of burning, let me direct you to this link with some good information about smoke inhalation.

 

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