En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - November 12, 2009

From: Kensington, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Clearing up the nativity of so-called Baltimore sedge (Carex senta)
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Dear Smarty Pants: Hi, did you ever get more clarity on the Carex senta issue (baltimore sedge)? Whether or not it was a wetland grass? I too am in Maryland and was thinking of planting it for a lawn, but not if it's only native way out west. If you have any other recommendation for a shade-loving native for a lawn, that would be wonderful. thanks in advance.


Carex senta (swamp carex) according to the USDA Plants Database is native to Arizona, New Mexico and California and according to the Flora of North America it grows along streams and in wet meadows in Arizona, California, and Mexico—not New Mexico.  Someone apparently misidentified a sedge in New Mexico as C. senta when it was really Carex stricta (upright sedge).  You obviously have read our previous question and answer concerning Carex senta but we still do not know why it is called 'Baltimore sedge' by some sources.  USDA Plants Database says its common name is 'swamp carex' and Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) gives its common name as  'swamp carex' or 'swamp sedge'. Flora of North America didn't assign it a common name.  If you have read Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape by John Greenlee (and I suspect you have), you know that he calls it 'Baltimore sedge', but we have no idea where he got the common name.  The bottom line, however, is that Carex senta is not native to Maryland, despite its sometimes common name. We can, however, suggest some other shade-loving plants for lawns that are native to Maryland:


Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge) and here are more photos and information and still more.

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) and here are more photos and information and still more.

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats), wouldn't be considered a turf grass, but it is very attractive even after seed heads have set.

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) is a tall attractive clumping grass.


Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) evergreen.

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood)

Geum canadense (white avens) evergreen.

Linnaea borealis (twinflower) evergreen.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) evergreen.

Packera obovata (roundleaf ragwort) evergreen.

Tiarella cordifolia (heartleaf foamflower)


Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Chasmanthium latifolium

Sorghastrum nutans

Gaultheria procumbens

Cornus canadensis

Geum canadense

Linnaea borealis

Mitchella repens

Packera obovata

Tiarella cordifolia





More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Planting turf grass in PA
October 23, 2010 - Is it too late to plant new grass in mid October in Pittsburg? Should I wait until Spring at this point?
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Steep Bank in Wisconsin
March 21, 2010 - We live on a lake with many white and red pines. The steep bank needs something not adversely affected by a buildup of pine needles to hold the sandy soil in place. The bank faces west and the pines ...
view the full question and answer

Color year round, welcome to Austin Texas.
December 04, 2011 - I am new to Austin and want to plant colorful flowers for fall and winter that get a "wow" reaction. I have not seen much at the local nurseries. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated!
view the full question and answer

Putting in native grass in June in Manor TX
May 31, 2012 - We are moving into a new-built house in the middle of June. We opted to not have them put in Bermuda grass as we wanted to seed a native mix. From my understanding, mid June will be too late to start ...
view the full question and answer

Effect of heavy rains on Lindheimer Muhly
May 04, 2015 - It is April 2015, in San Antonio we've had very heavy rains recently. My Lindheimer muhly, which was looking beautiful, has now turned brown all over. Is this normal or is this a problem?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center