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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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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - June 03, 2008

From: Rochester, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Ferns, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Short or mowable plant for walkway
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'd like a short and/or mowable plant to use as a walkway in and around a vegetable garden in upstate NY. I was planning on clover, but I want to use a native plant if possible. The native clovers seem like they might be too tall. If it can help the soil/wildlife, all the better.

ANSWER:

It isn't clear to me whether there will be much foot traffic on your walkways. I am not sure how the native clovers, the two groundcovers or the fern would fare under heavy traffic. The sedges listed below might withstand foot traffic the best.

The following are the native clovers that are found in New York:

Dalea purpurea (purple prairie clover) up to 2 feet tall

Lespedeza capitata (roundhead lespedeza) 2 to 4 feet

Lespedeza repens (creeping lespedeza) up to 1.5 feet, photo from Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

Lespedeza stuevei (tall lespedeza) 1.5 to 5 feet tall

Lespedeza virginica (slender lespedeza) 2 to 4 feet

Please don't use any of the species of Trifolium. They are introduced species and several of these are listed on the Weeds of the Northeast as invasive species.

There are two low ground covers that are evergreen that do well in part shade (2 to 6 hours per day of sunlight) or shade (<2 hours per day of sunlight).

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) evergreen, 2 to 6 inches, prefers part shade or shade

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) evergreen, up to 2 inches, prefers part shade or shade

There is an evergreen fern, Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), that grows from 1 to 2 feet and prefers sun or part shade.

One of the sedges might be a good choice. Sedge are grasslike and can be mowed, most are evergreen and low-growing. You can read about Woodland Sedges, in an article from the North American Native Plant Society. Below are several sedges that are found in New York.

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Carex vulpinoidea (fox sedge)

Visit our Recommended Species page and select New York from the map to see a list of native species suitable for landscaping in New York and are avaiable commercially.


Dalea purpurea

Lespedeza capitata

Lespedeza stuevei

Lespedeza virginica

Gaultheria procumbens

Mitchella repens

Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Carex texensis

Carex vulpinoidea

 

 

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