Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Friday - March 09, 2012

From: Dover Plains, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Does Helasia diptera absorb toxic substances from Dover Plains NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Plants, Halesia carolina is described as absorbing toxic substances: herbicides, pesticides and pollutants from water, air and soil. Does Halesia diptera do the same? Thank you.

ANSWER:

We believe you may have misinterpreted the following paragraph from our webpage on Halesia carolina (Carolina silverbell):

"Warning: Raw seeds are poisonous and can be fatal to humans and animals. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil."

This is meant as a caution against consuming any part of this plant because they can absorb toxic substances and transmit them to a pet or child that chose to eat them; not that it could be used to clean or de-toxify any particular part of the environment.

Halesia diptera (Two-wing silverbell)Halesia tetraptera (Mountain silverbell) and Halesia tetraptera var. monticola (Mountain silverbell) have no such warnings on their webpage. We did some research to see if this trait was common to other members of the genus Halesia, and found none.  As you can see from this USDA Plant Profile Map, only Halesia tetraptera (Mountain silverbell) is native to New York State.

In short, these plants can absorb a small amount of pollutants for their own protection, but are not a solution to pollution. Also, the plants would be only too glad to pass those pollutants on to any organism swallowing them. However, if you were just concerned with whether it was safe to plant the Halesia tetraptera (Mountain silverbell), we could find no documentation that it was not. From Ohio State University, here is more information. Pictures

 

More Shrubs Questions

Screening Plants for Cape Cod
June 17, 2014 - I need to plant some fairly high growing leafy plants/bushes/trees for privacy and as a sound barrier in (the remains of) a pine forest in Cape Cod, MA. The pines grow tall and skinny so that we can s...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of shrub in Georgia
May 26, 2010 - I have a bush that has red berries. It is evergreen and the leaves are a soft green. The berries are white at first and turn red. The bush is like a cluster of twigs that are in one area kind of li...
view the full question and answer

Bugs eating new growth on Mountain Laurel shrubs from Dripping Springs TX
April 02, 2013 - What is eating the new growth on my mountain laurel shrubs? One plant has red bugs and the other has black (could they be love bugs?). Is there something I can do to preserve the new growth?
view the full question and answer

Non-native Lorapetalum chinense from Driftwood TX
March 16, 2012 - In a previous response you said that it would not be wise to plant any trees with the word Chinese in it. Does this apply to Lorapetalum (Chinese Fringe Flower)? I would like to use this plant as a ...
view the full question and answer

Safe grazing for donkeys and goats from Osteen FL
June 30, 2012 - I am having a very difficult time trying to find shrubs, hedges, plants, flowers, or trees etc. that are safe for donkeys and goats. We live in Zone 9 and have a small farm. I've had to pull every ...
view the full question and answer

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