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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.

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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 - July 11, 2015

From: Covington, LA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Barrier Shrubs for North Carolina
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Need a spiny barrier shrub that will grow in North Carolina shady rain forest (4,000 feet elevation) to deter trespassers wading down a creek from climbing on a private nature path that we constructed 10 ft above the creek. It probably needs to be about 3 ft tall ( or be pruned to 2-3 ft tall) so as to not block the view of the creek from the trail. I placed NO TRESPASSING signs to no avail. The trail is being destroyed, not to mention liability risks. Open to suggestions.

ANSWER:

When Mr. Smarty Plants first read your question I thought of some of the championship level spiny plants we have here in Texas.   Those would really send those trespassers back towards where they came from!  But – They won’t do very well at 4000 ft. in North Carolina.

The plants that more likely should do well are listed in the Recommended Species Collection for North Carolina.

These lists can be sorted for characteristics.  When I select Shrubs, this reduces the list to 32 candidates. Further selecting 1-6 feet high gives seven ones that are naturally as short as you would like.  Thorny or thicket forming shrubs aren’t some of the characteristics that can be sorted out – but they are often listed in the discussion.

Erythrina herbacea (Coralbean) and Ribes rotundifolium (Appalachian gooseberry seem to meet your request most clearly, they are both thorny and 6 ft. or less in height.  From the USDA link showing the native area, the Gooseberry seems better adapted to the mountains.

Other candidates that might find application are

Rhododendron catawbiense (Catawba rosebay),  Rhus glabra (Smooth sumac), Rhododendron maximum (Great laurel), and  Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry).  Those struck me as possibilities as they form dense thickets, sometimes even mentioned as on slopes

 

From the Image Gallery


Coralbean
Erythrina herbacea

Coralbean
Erythrina herbacea

Catawba rosebay
Rhododendron catawbiense

Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra

Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra

Great laurel
Rhododendron maximum

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

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