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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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Thursday - December 17, 2015

From: Prairie Du Chien, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Non-Toxic Hedge for Wisconsin
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

What would be a good non-toxic for dogs, privacy hedge about 3-6 feet tall for Wisconsin climate zone 4b?

ANSWER:

The first place to start your search is in the Native Plant Database. Narrow your search criteria by selecting Wisconsin, Shrub, Perennial, Sun, Moist soil, 3-12 feet tall and Evergreen (for the most privacy). This will fit all of your criteria except for your dog-friendly request.

Only one plant fits this search:

Taxus canadensis (Canada/American yew)

American yew is a low, straggling shrub or ground cover, 3-6 ft. tall and twice as wide, with flat, narrow needles that are dark green above and pale green below. Evergreen foliage takes on a reddish-brown tint in winter. Spreading limbs ascend at the tips. Bright-red, berry-like fruit grows at the tips of the branches. Needs protection from winter sun and wind, heat or drought. Pest free.

Unfortunately, the ASPCA website lists this plant as being toxic to dogs. The USDA also reports that Yews (Taxus spp.) have also caused poisoning in cattle, horses and sheep when they have eaten the trimmings. Perhaps there is an option for a low inner chainlink fence to keep your pets away from the privacy hedge and then the yew can be used?

There are many deciduous, native shrubs that could be used as an informal hedge that are not toxic to pets or humans that could be used if you could tolerate less of a privacy hedge and more of a visual screen. Change your search criteria used above to Deciduous instead of Evergreen for this group.

 

From the Image Gallery


Canada yew
Taxus canadensis

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