En Español

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 - December 07, 2007

From: Accord, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Mowable sedge for Zone 5, New York
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My wife (who is from Austin!) and I have a house in New York, warmish Zone 5. We are seeking a grass-like groundcover for lawn areas ranging from full to partial shade. We have a well-drained hill needing erosion control, almost-fully-shaded areas needing a low-growing cover that could be mowed or let alone, and flatter areas with decent drainage, but enough moisture in places to drown the ryegrass planted by the builder for temporary erosion control. Mowability and durability is a requirement, as I'd like some traditional lawn space for occasional sports. Attractive foliage and deer resistance are also desirable. Soil is both our native soil and a sandy mix put down by the builder around the house. Large numbers of hard and soft wood trees provide many leaves, which we mulch in the fall. Is there one sedge that can cover all our needs?

ANSWER:

This is a toughie. No one said Mr. Smarty Plants could come up with everything, but we tried hard. The most difficult requirement we encountered in our research was mowability. In order to find the five candidates we came up with, we went first to "Plant Database", and down the page to the "Combination Search". There, we filled in the criteria as: State-New York, Growing Habit-grass or grass-like, Light requirements-part to full shade and Moisture-wet.

Carex amphibola (eastern narrowleaf sedge) . This sedge is listed as endangered in New Jersey and New York, so I'm not sure about its availability, but it's good for erosion and wet conditions.

Carex frankii (Frank's sedge) . This apparently grows up to 2-1/2 feet tall, so, unless it took severe mowing well, it's probably not a good candidate.

Carex plantaginea (plantainleaf sedge) .This sedge grows to 1 to 2 feet tall, same problem as above.

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) . This is a ryegrass, which you already said you didn't want, and besides, it grows 2 to 4 feet.

Carex pedunculata (longstalk sedge) . This looks like it might be a winner. On this North American Native Plant Society site, this writer was enthusiastic over this sedge. She also mentions several other native sedges which we don't happen to have on our Native Plant Database, but might be well worth your researching on Google. And she has information on the availability and propagation of the sedges. We found no references to its mowability, but this particular sedge was referred to as 5 inches tall. You might not need to mow.

Now, you get your homework assignment. First, we would suggest you follow the above links and read the information in our database about each plant. A few of them have pictures, as well. If you feel we chose the wrong criteria for our search (too much moisture, not enough sun?), you can do the "Combination Search" for yourself. It will give you a list that fits the requirements you have put in, and you can check the data pages on each of them. And, then go through the article on the North American Native Plant Society site, and see if our nominee for the award is a winner.

Finally, thank you for planning to use plants native to North America and to your geographical area in your landscaping. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is all about using native plants as a benefit to the environment.

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Carex texensis for Gainesville, Florida
August 31, 2013 - I am interested in planting Carex texensis in Gainesville Florida (zone 9). The site is part shade with little water. However, I do not see it listed as being used anywhere in Florida. Is it restric...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for a wildflower meadow in Greenville, SC
August 17, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have been establishing a wildflower meadow in Greenville, SC. Our current wildflowers are: Purple Coneflower Perennial Black-eyed Susans Cardinal Flower Butte...
view the full question and answer

Plants for edge of pond
June 23, 2008 - We live in Atlanta, Texas. My husband built a beautiful pond that is almost an acre in size. We are fortunate in that one side of the pond is covered by trees and a natural ground cover that keeps w...
view the full question and answer

Native plants that are dog-proof in South Texas
July 13, 2008 - I live in Odem, Texas and would like to use only native plants in my front and backyard. I have two puppies who love to dig. What plants should I use that require minimal attention from me and will no...
view the full question and answer

Native aparejograss and Water-cress at a spring in Horeshoe Bay TX
February 24, 2012 - AT a small spring that seeps from a rocky hill on my ranch near Austin, a stringy grass called aparejograss has replaced the watercress that used to be there. Should I be worried? Does the appearance...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center