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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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Friday - November 02, 2012

From: Anaconda, MT
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Puppy-friendly privacy screen in Montana
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I need some puppy-friendly short(< 30') privacy from the gigantic windows of my next door neighbor. But- there are power lines above the area that I needed to plant! I had planned on an aspen grove, had utilities marked below, dug a huge hole.. then looked up, oops! Power lines. Bummer. I did search and found a slightly similar question, but mine is different, because I really need a shorter tree/shrub. Evergreen would be nice, but not nescessary, we do play outside all year round and would like to get rid of that "being watched" feeling. Man you should see these windows she has! They are thirty feet high, with no shades that I have ever seen closed (eewww, exhibitionist?) and houses are super close in town. Thank you very much! Lisa.

ANSWER:

Let's see what we can find to keep you from feeling "watched".  First, we can do a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database choosing "Montana" from Select State or Province and either "Shrub" or "Tree" from Habit (general appearance) and both "6-12" and "12-36" from Height (in feet).  Below are some possibilities that I chose from these searches.  You can also do the searches yourself to see if there are other trees or shrubs that fit your requirements.

Acer glabrum (Rocky mountain maple) is deciduous and grows from 10 to 30 feet tall.  Here are photos and more information from Southwestern Colorado WildflowersCalflora lists this plant as potentially causing dermatitis, but no listing of ingestion toxicity.

Betula occidentalis (Mountain birch) is deciduous and grows 20 to 30 feet tall.  Here are more photos from Flora of Eastern Washington and Adjacent Idaho.

Cercocarpus montanus (Alderleaf mountain mahogany) is described as having "almost-evergreen leaves" and grows from 8 to 20 feet tall.  Here are more photos and in formation from Southwestern Colorado Wildflowers and from Utah State University.

Rhus glabra (Smooth sumac) is a deciduous 10-20 feet shrub that forms colonies.  Here is more information from Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture.

Shepherdia argentea (Silver buffaloberry) is deciduous and grows from 6 to 20 feet tall.  Here is more information from Las Pilitas Nursery in California.

Juniperus osteosperma (Utah juniper) is evergreen and grows to 10-20 feet.  Here is more information from Utah State University.

The following plants from the list, although attractive and of the proper size, probably should not be used because of their potential toxicity for your puppy:

Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry) is deciduous, often forms thickets and grows to 30 feet.  It is an attractive tree, but the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List – Dogs lists plants in the genus Prunus (including apricot, plum, peach and cherry) as toxic to dogs.  None of the other species above is listed as toxic to dogs by the ASPCA.  Montana Plant Life also lists chokecherry as toxic, especially the seeds.

Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea [syn. = Sambucus cerulea](Blue elder) is deciduous and grows from 6 to 24 feet tall and Sambucus racemosa (Red elderberry) is deciduous and grows to 8-20 feet.  Montana Plant Life reports that the leaves, green fruits and stems of the genus Sambucus are poisonous.  They say:

"The stems, bark, leaves and roots contain cyanide-producing glycosides, and are therefore poisonous, especially when fresh. The fruit of this species has been known to cause stomach upsets. Any toxin the fruit might contain is considered to be of low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked."

Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry) is deciduous and grows from 3 to 18 feet tall and Amelanchier utahensis (Utah service-berry) is deciduous and grows to 15 feet. The ASPCA says that the plants of the genus Amelanchier contain cyanogenic glycosides that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory problems and, if consumed in large amounts, potentially death.  The Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System lists Amelanchier alnifolia as toxic.

If you do find other native shrubs or trees in our Native Plant Database that you would like to check for toxicity, use the following toxic plant databases and search using the botanical name rather than the common name:

ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List – Dogs

Montana Plant Life

Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

 

From the Image Gallery


Mountain birch
Betula occidentalis

Alderleaf mountain mahogany
Cercocarpus montanus

Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra

Silver buffaloberry
Shepherdia argentea

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