En Español

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

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - September 03, 2011

From: Sarasota, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: Plant identification for shrub in Florida
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

On our street we have ornamental shrub planted in the median that has small waxy green leaves, produces small fragrant white flowers, and red berries with white pulp and small seeds on the inside. The berries start out green and then turn pale red and are about one inch long and one half inch in diameter. My questions are: what is this plant, and are these berries edible (they smell apetizing when crushed)?

ANSWER:

My experience with ornamental shrubs planted in the median of streets is that they are introduced plants not native to North America.  Our area of focus and expertise is with plants native to North America; however, I happen to have an excellent guide book to The Shrubs & Woody Vines of Florida by Gil Nelson that not only gives native shrubs, but introduced ones as well.  Your plant sounds a lot like Murraya paniculata (orange jessamine), introduced to North America from Asia.  Here are more photos and more information.  Here is a link to someone's website who tried tasting them. 

NOTE:  It's not really a good idea to find out whether or not a plant is poisonous by tasting it!!   A better way is to check its scientific name against several toxic plant databases.  This doesn't guarantee that it isn't poisonous, but it certainly makes it less likely that it is.   Here are a few that you can try:

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

If Murraya paniculata isn't your plant, your best bet for learning its identity is to take photos of it and then visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that accept photos for identification.  On the Plant Identification page be sure to read the "Important Notes" for submitting photos and be sure your photos are in good focus.

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Is Viburnum dilatatum 'Henneke' (Cardinal Candy) toxic to horses?
July 01, 2014 - Is Viburnum-Cardinal Candy/Viburnum dilatatum 'Henneke' reported to be toxic or non-toxic to horses?
view the full question and answer

Plants to replace poison ivy in Kingsport TN
July 03, 2009 - Am in the process of killing off poison ivy that is growing vigorously. What do you recommend to plant in its place. I don't want to leave area open to other invasive plants. (Yes, poison ivy is a...
view the full question and answer

Are mountain laurel beans safe to use as rattles with small children?
September 19, 2012 - Is it safe to use the mountain laurel mescalbean pods as shakers or rattles, as long as the pods are not open and the seeds left unexposed? If a small child (very small, who has no way to open the ...
view the full question and answer

Drought-tolerant plants that are non-toxic to dogs
May 10, 2010 - I am looking for drought-tolerant native plants non-poisonious to dogs. We are putting gardens in an area the dog has access to, and she likes to sample the darndest things. South side of the house,...
view the full question and answer

Is Chilopsis linearis poisonous to dogs in Midland, TX?
June 04, 2011 - Is any variety of Chilopsis linearis (particularly bubba bubba) poisonous to animals? I'm thinking about using it as a source of shade for multiple dog kennels in west Texas.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center