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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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Monday - September 28, 2009

From: Carmichael, CA
Region: California
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native creeping fig and non-native nutgrass in Carmichael CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Will creeping fig choke out nut grass?

ANSWER:

No. Nothing will choke out nutgrass, Cyperus rotundus. And planting creeping fig, Ficus pumila, would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Nutgrass originated in Africa, Southern Europe and Southern Asia. Creeping fig came from Japan, China and Vietnam. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the care, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. Therefore, both these invasive, aggressive plants are out of our range of expertise. However, trying to control or prevent the propagation of alien invasive plants is well within our scope. 

First, the nutgrass, sometimes called nutsedge. It spreads from rhizomes that can be as much as 18 inches underground. Herbicides (which we recommend neither for nor against) can do little damage to the plant, because of its very deep rhizomes and the difficulty of getting the herbicide to those tubers that store food for the plant. You could try some of the suggestions from HowToGetRidofStuff.com.

On to creeping fig, Ficus pumila. While it is promoted by commercial nurseries as an evergreen ground cover, the information we found from people who had it in their yards, left by previous owners, is that they hate it. Even with vigorous pruning, it is nearly impossible to contain. It will grow up and over anything it can get to, including trees, which then die from lack of sunlight. It can damage wood sidings or fences with the adhesive in its runners that permits it to climb, and cutting it off at the roots does no good, because it roots itself, and you may find runners coming up 20 feet away. Underneath it all, the nutgrass will still be quietly flourishing. 

You can't do anything but pull out, and keep pulling out, the nutgrass, but you can prevent the problems with the creeping fig by never planting it.

 

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