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Mr. Smarty Plants - Pros and cons of Hydrocotyl bonariensis as lawn replacement

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Saturday - March 22, 2008

From: Garland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Turf
Title: Pros and cons of Hydrocotyl bonariensis as lawn replacement
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Want to convert lawn TO dollar weed! My Garland TX yard has become so shady over the years that I have a hard time with grass. A few years ago I noticed dollar weed in the grass which seemed to create an 'under carpet'. I have left it, and it seems to be taking over the shady parts of my yard - and I like it, but the plant gets only bad press. It doesn't seem to need watering or mowing, it stays lower than the lawn mower's blades, the round leaves are really pleasant...like violet leaves... its easy to walk on, it grows between the flag stone that I am increasingly laying where grass no longer grows, AND its a NATIVE plant! Can you tell me anything about the plant - how thickly will it grow? Is there any place to GET seeds to help increase the thickness of the coverage? How is it propagated? via roots or seeds? Why is it so despised?

ANSWER:

Well, guess what? Hydrocotyle bonariensis (largeleaf pennywort), which is probably the one you have, seems like a nice, natural lawn replacement where there is too much shade and moisture. In fact, as we looked through references to this plant, it seemed that many, if not most, of the sites knocking dollarweed were sponsored by herbicide manufacturers. Go to this site emilycompost and get some positive feedback. If you call it "pennywort", which is another common name, you'll find there is a lot less negative comment about it. Another native plant, Dichondra recurvata (oakwoods ponysfoot), looks very similar but is not related. Dichondra is widely used, especially in California, as a lawn plant. It's very ironic that you are probably replacing one of two invasive, non-native grasses-St. Augustine and Bermuda-with a native, attractive, low maintenance ground cover.

In terms of propagation, since Hydrocotyle bonariensis (largeleaf pennywort) is a native plant which volunteered to live in your lawn, I think you might just let Nature take its course. It is a perennial, with stems creeping and rooting at the nodes; it spreads by rhizomes. It's going to do better in the shady environment and around your flagstones than a competing grass. It does bloom, from April to September, and probably will seed out from that. If you can convince your husband that it reduces his mowing, it's evergreen, needs less water and is going to be there anyway, you probably will have no further problem. If it chooses to get into flower beds, you'll probably want to remove it, but it's certainly less invasive in that respect than the St. Augustine and Bermuda.


Dichondra recurvata

Hydrocotyle bonariensis

 

 

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