Thursday, June 9, 2011

Poisonous Perennial Shrubs found in Alabama

Alabama Wildflowers

Alabama has a rich landscape with hot summers and cool winters. It is a great atmosphere for many plants and gardens. However, many plants, shrubs, and trees are known to be toxic or poisonous. These are some of the poisonous perennial shrubs that can be found in Alabama.

Rhododendron calendulaceum
Common Name: Flame Azalea
Synonyms: Azalea calendulacea, Azalea lutea
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: An upright shrub, this azalea gets 6 to 12 feet high and 6 to 12 feet wide. Flowers are clustered, funnel-like, and either red, orange or yellow. They are not fragrant. Bloom season is from May to June. Leaves are medium green and turn yellow or red in the fall.
Planting Guide: Rhododendron calendulaceum grows well in partial shade and moist well-drained acidic soil. It tolerates a dry soil.
Propagation: Flame azalea is propagated by seed. Seed will need to be mixed with sphagnum moss and germinate under plastic over a 2:1 mixture of perlite to peat moss.
History: This azalea was first collected from North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains by A. Michaux in 1795.
Warnings: All parts of the flame azalea are poisonous due to andromedotoxin and honey from their flowers is also poisonous.
Distribution: Rhododendron calendulaceum is found in AL, CT, GA, KY, MD, MY, MC, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA and WV.

Lycium carolinianum
Common Name: Carolina Wolfberry, Carolina Desert-thorn, Creeping Wolfberry, Christmas Berry
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: Growing 3 to 6 feet, this shrub has small leaves and tubular 4-petaled flowers. Colors are usually blue or lavender and bloom in the season between April and October. Berries are red and fleshy, tasting like tomatoes.
Planting Guide: Lycium carolinianum prefers sun or partial shade and moist soil. It is saline tolerant, cold tolerant and heat tolerant.
Propagation: Carolina wolfberry is propagated by seed. Depending on the cultivar, they may need cold stratification for 2 to 4 months.
History: This shrub is very attractive to birds and other small wildlife as a browse and cover.
Warnings: It is listed in the FDA poisonous plant database.
Distribution: Lycium carolinianum is found in AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, SC and TX.

Illicium floridanum
Common Name: Florida Anisetree, Florida Anise, Anise Tree, Stinkbush
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: This evergreen shrub grows 6 to 10 feet high with leaves that are lance-like and leathery. Dark green on tops and paler beneath, the leaves are also aromatic. Flowers have strap-like petals and red, white, or purple flowers. There are 20 to 30 petals per bloom. Bloom season is between April and May.
Planting Guide: Illicium floridanum should be planted in well-drained moist soils and partial shade conditions.
Propagation: Florida anisetree is propagated by seed and cuttings. Cuttings should be firm-wooded cuttings and seed does not need prior treatment to planting. It can self-sow.
Warnings: This plant can be toxic and should not be used as an anise substitute (Illicium verum).
Distribution: Illicium floridanum is found in AL, FL, GA, LA and MS.

Rhododendron maximum
Common Name: White Laurel, Wild Rhododendron, Rosebay Rhododendron, Great Laurel
Synonyms: Rhododendron ashleyi
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: This shrub grows 4 to 15 feet high in the Northern parts of the United States and up to 30 feet high in the Southern areas. Leaves are dark blue-green and leather-like while flowers are white or purple-pink and bell-like. Flowers are in clusters and bloom in June. There are crooked branches.
Planting Guide: Rhododendron maximum prefers wet or moist acidic well-drained soil and partial shade.
Propagation: White laurel is propagated by seed. Seed will need to be mixed with sphagnum moss and germinate under plastic over a 2:1 mixture of perlite to peat moss.
History: White laurel wood has been used for tool handles.
            There is a herbal remedy that uses the leaves as an astringent.
Warnings: All parts of the plant are toxic due to andromedotoxin. Honey made from white laurel flowers is also poisonous.
Distribution: Rhododendron maximum is found in AL, CT, GA, KY, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, VA, WV and DC.

These four shrubs are all nicely ornamental and look great in a landscape. Knowing their poisonous properties can help make you better informed whether it can work in your garden or if it must go.


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