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Tuesday - November 10, 2009

From: Baton Rouge, LA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Carex as a shady turf alternative in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I just read your answer to Barbara Medford's question about what multi-species native grasses would work to create a shady lawn. While you had some wonderful suggestions you mention a homeowner's associations might not take kindly to them. I would like to recommend to the both of you to try different species of native sedge. When I lived in Austin I used Carex retroflexa from a local nursery under my live oak. It was evergreen & I found it was best to trim the areas that received foot traffic once a year (just as they were setting seed).


Barbara Medford was the answerer, not the asker, on this question. Mr. Smarty Plants is a team of staff members and volunteers for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; the name of the author at the top of the answer is that of the person who researched and answered the question. 

Anyway, we appreciate your suggestion and agree that carexes are often a solution for a plant needed in a shady or moist area. Others interested in this subject might like to read that previous answer discussing grasses for a shady area in Central Texas. You are correct, Carex retroflexa (reflexed sedge) is native to the Travis County area. Because there was not much information on it in our Native Plant Database, we found this San Marcos Growers (California) site with some of the growing requirements for Carex retroflexa.

Now, there's good news and there's bad news about the genus Carex; first the good news: There are 203 species of Carex native to North America and 46 native to Texas in our Native Plant Database. As it happens, that is also the bad news. There is simply not enough detailed information on each and every species, and few are available commercially. Many people, seeing them in the fields, would likely regard them as weeds, without being able to see the value of sedges in sometimes difficult growing conditions, such as too wet, too dry or too shady.  Finally, sedges usually will not stand as much foot-traffic as grasses.

Our best recommendation is that the sedges be considered in situations where other native grasses will not suffice. By going to our National Supplier's Directory, and entering the town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, you will get a list of native plant suppliers, seed companies and consultants in your general area. They may not have an appropriate  plant in stock, but could possibly order it, and even be encouraged to stock it, when they realize the purposes it will serve. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Carex blanda

Carex edwardsiana

Carex planostachys

Carex texensis





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