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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.

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Friday - February 20, 2009

From: Clifton Park , NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Rain Gardens
Title: What plants can absorb the excess water in my back yard?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I am looking for any plants and trees that can absorb the excess water in my back yard. There is a large area that is swampy and always wet. Could you please provide me some suggestions?

ANSWER:

You don't mention the source of the water, or how much there is. or whether it is there all of the time or only intermittently. This may be more of a problem for a hydrologist than for a botanist.

It is true that plants absorb moisture from the soil and release it through their leaves (transpiration), but absorbing excess water may be beyond the capability of most plants. Bear in mind that many plants can't survive in soil that is saturated with water.

To find trees that can grow in moist/wet environments, go to the Explore Plants menu on the "Ask Mr. Smarty Plants" page and click on "Recommended Species". Select the state of New York on the map, and you wiill get a list of 112 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in New York. Select the Narrow Your Search option  and choose  Tree under "HABIT", Perrenial under "DURATION", and both Moist and Wet under "SOIL MOISTURE" and the list shrinks to 37. You can repeat the process , choosing Shrub under "HABIT", and you will get a list of 14 shrubs.

I've done this  to find five tree species that are adapted to grow in wet soils.

Bur Oak Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak)

Black Gum Nyssa sylvatica (blackgum)

Canadian Serviceberry Amelanchier canadensis (Canadian serviceberry)

Gray Birch Betula populifolia (gray birch)

American Beech Fagus grandifolia (American beech)

Our National Suppliers Directory can help you find nurseries in your area that handle these plants.

 

From the Image Gallery


Bur oak
Quercus macrocarpa

Blackgum
Nyssa sylvatica

Canadian serviceberry
Amelanchier canadensis

Gray birch
Betula populifolia

American beech
Fagus grandifolia

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