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
1 rating

Tuesday - August 16, 2011

From: The Woodlands, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Poisonous Plants
Title: Sturdiness of non- native poisonous oleanders
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We've seen a dozen different types of non-native plants in our yard perish in last winter's brutal freezes and this summer's record drought..which is good..except for the Oleanders, which nature can't seem to kill. The Oleanders seem to love our dismal clay soil with no amendments of any kind. They seem to go without a drop of water for weeks. They never wilt, even when the temperature is 104 degrees. In fact, our Oleanders seem to be faring better than many of our native plants. My question is: are these seemingly-indestructible adopted children really bad for our local ecosystem? Is it that they don't provide any food for the wildlife like the Yaupons do? The Oleander's poison doesn't harm our wildlife, does it? What ecological damage does this amazing Texas wannabe do?

ANSWER:

Okay, here's the thing-we agree that some non-natives do seem to thrive no matter what Nature throws at it. However, you ask if oleander is damaging the ecosystem? Maybe not, although we are still committed to natives, if for no other reason than that non-natives can crowd out the natives. But the most important fact about oleanders, at least to us, is not that they will damage the ecosystem, but that they will damage YOU. Please read this excerpt and follow the links to a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question:

"This article from Floridata will give you some information on Nerium oleander. Please be sure to read the Toxic warning at the bottom of the page. All parts of this plant are toxic, and it is not even safe to burn it, as the smoke retains the toxicity. It is native to North Africa. For more information on the toxicity, read this Howstuffworks.com article on The Top 5 Most Poisonous Plants."

So Mr. Smarty Plants will play the Devil's Advocate. You don't have children or pets who might nibble on it, and you wear long gloves when you prune it, and it goes to the landfill. And you're sure not going to take a bite out of it. So, how about next year when you sell your house and garden to an unsuspecting young family with children and pets? Or how about when you have a picnic for a group to show off your lovely garden? How would you feel if the purchaser's family was devastated by the loss of a child to poisoning? Or maybe an adult walking a dog would let the dog wander into your yard. We know no one likes other people's dogs in our garden, but what if the beloved pet of that neighbor is poisoned?

Bottom line: There are states that have laws against planting oleanders. There are no such laws in Texas, so you can plant or keep what you like in your garden. Are you sure that's what you want to do?


 

More Non-Natives Questions

Information about non-native tung tree
November 20, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a tree growing in my yard in North Austin which I can't identify. I have been told it is a 'tong' or 'tung' tree but can't find it in any reference books. It is de...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting non-native bougainvillea in Florida
February 10, 2009 - Hi, My neighbor has two established bougainvillea that he is giving me..I just have to dig them up and not kill them..what is the best way to dig up and transplant them?
view the full question and answer

Distinguishing American from Chinese beautyberry from Huntsville AL
August 03, 2012 - How can I tell American beautyberry from Chinese beautyberry when trying to purchase strictly native plants?
view the full question and answer

Loss of leaves from globe willows in Utah
July 26, 2008 - I have four globe willows that have been in my back yard for the past 6 years. For the past month they have been losing their leaves from the bottom up. We had aphids in some of our other trees and ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native Chinese pistache tree in San Jose CA
May 30, 2009 - We have a Chinese Pistache tree that is between 25 and 30 years-old. Over the past couple years, we have observed more and more branches dying. They turn black, and remain leafless in the spring, when...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center