Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - December 09, 2013

From: Oxford , PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: Shrubs not toxic to cattle in NJ
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I am working to rejuvenate the hedgerows on a farm in New Jersey by removing invasive plants and planting native shrubs. How do I find out which native shrubs are toxic to cattle and should not be planted in the hedgerows?

ANSWER:

We applaud your efforts.  By removing inavsive plants and planting native shrubs you are providing important (and at times scarce) habitat food and shelter for many native species of birds, insects and small mammals.

The Cornell University Department of Animal Science has a published an extensive list of plants that are poisonous to livestock.  Click here for the list of plants poisonous to cattle.  When you examine it closely you will see that most of them are herbaceous plants but many of them are native to your area that could get established within your hedgerow

Allium canadense (Meadow garlic)

Asclepias syriaca (Common milkweed)

Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed)

There are actually not many shrubs on the list that you would be considering but there are a  few you should avoid, such as:

Aesculus parviflora (Bottlebrush buckeye) whose fruits are poisonous

Prunus serotina (Black cherry) and the other wild cherries native to your area such as pin cherry and choke cherry whose seeds and leaves are poisonous, and

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (Common elderberry) whose leaves, twigs, roots and unripe fruit are poisonous (but cooked elderberry fruit in jellies and pies is harmless and tasty!)

That being said, there are plenty of good plants to choose from.  If you visit out Native Plant Database and perform a Combination Search, selecting New Jersey/Shrub and the sizes 3-6 ft, 6-12 ft and even 12-36ft,  it will generate a large list to select from.  You can also narrow it further according to specific light and soil conditions as you wish.

What you ultimately plant will be dependant on what is available in the trade and the size of your budget but here are a few of my favorites.

Amelanchier arborea (Common serviceberry) which blooms early in the spring, produces berries that birds (and people) love and has great fall color

Ceanothus herbaceus (Redroot) whose flowers and berries are great for butterflies and birds, but doesn't really color up in the fall

Cornus sericea (Redosier dogwood) whose red twigs bring color to the drab winter landscape, berries support many tupes of fowl and spreading habit will help fill in the hedgerow

Morella pensylvanica (Northern bayberry) whose waxy berries are eaten by many winter birds and used by humans for making traditional candles

Physocarpus opulifolius (Atlantic ninebark) which is tough but attractive with yellow fall colour and red fruit that the birds like, and

Rhus glabra (Smooth sumac) which many people detest because of its suckering habit (maybe just what you need?) but has awesome fall colour and fruit that is not only ornamental but beneficial and high in Vitamin C.  The Chickadees enjoy mine all winter long.

And now for the bad news ... these plants won't harm your cattle, provide wildlife benefits and are ornamental ... but the deer will browse on most of them. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Meadow garlic
Allium canadense

Common milkweed
Asclepias syriaca

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

Bottlebrush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora

Black cherry
Prunus serotina

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Common serviceberry
Amelanchier arborea

Prairie redroot
Ceanothus herbaceus

Red osier dogwood
Cornus sericea

Northern bayberry
Morella pensylvanica

Atlantic ninebark
Physocarpus opulifolius

Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra

More Shrubs Questions

Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
August 28, 2012 - My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area...
view the full question and answer

Does Buttonbush Spread?
May 20, 2015 - I live in Los Angeles County. Does Buttonbush spread via its roots/rhizomes? I've got a picture I could send in a reply. Gotta know if it's, what I see, a part of the buttonbush.
view the full question and answer

Pruning of tree poppy from Livermore CA
May 29, 2013 - We have a Dendromecon rigida which has been in place for about 10 years and is doing fine. But the older growth gets dry, brown and crinkly, while the newer growth is bright and lush. I would like t...
view the full question and answer

Red bugs have appeared on my Texas mountain laurel
April 10, 2016 - What should I do about the red bugs on my mountain laurel?
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant privacy plants for Flagstaff AZ
March 19, 2013 - We need a fast growing drought tolerant tree that will grow in Flagstaff AZ/Parks AZ. Neighbors are hoarders and we want privacy fence to cover the mess. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.