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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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Friday - May 04, 2007

From: Wills Point, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Toxicity and invasiveness of Scarlet Wisteria
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I recently purchased seeds for Scarlet Wisteria (Chinese rattlebox tree). I spoke to a neighbor about this and she warned me not to plant them as they were poisonous to hummingbirds. Can you clarify this for me? Also, is this a good species for planting in the Dallas area?

ANSWER:

Scarlet wisteria or Chinese rattlebox tree (Sesbania punicea) is an invasive introduced species from South America, so for that reason alone Mr. Smarty Plants strongly urges you not to plant your seeds.

Poisonous Plants of North Carolina says that the seeds are highly toxic and may be fatal if eaten. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System reports: "The seeds contain a saponin that is quite toxic to poultry, cattle, sheep, goats, and humans. As few as nine seeds per bird can be fatal." However, I could find no indication that the nectar is toxic to hummingbirds.

Mr. Smarty Plants recommends the following beautiful native hummingbird- and butterfly-attractant plants as substitutes for the scarlet wisteria:

Bignonia capreolata (crossvine)

Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow)

Lonicera sempervirens (trumpet honeysuckle)


Bignonia capreolata

Campsis radicans

Asclepias tuberosa

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

 


Lonicera sempervirens
 

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