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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.

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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Sunday - June 13, 2010

From: Vienna, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Removing nut grass and wild strawberry in Vienna VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Pants, How do I get rid of wild strawberry plants and nut grass in my large garden bed? I have rosemary and thyme already there and don't want to use a harmful pesticide (kids and pets as well).

ANSWER:

You aren't going to like this, but in both cases simply pulling it out again and again and again is the time-honored method. An organic approach, which we have never tried, is found in Gardens Alive Is Nutgrass Driving You Nuts? The problem, even with very intense organic or chemical pesticides, is that the rhizomes, deep underground, will hold nourishment for the plant for a very long time, usually permitting it to overcome attempts to do it in. If you pull off the leaves of a plant long enough, the roots will finally starve, because there are no leaves making food for the whole plant through photosynthesis.  If your ground is soft, there is no greater satisfaction than pulling out a long string of those tubers and destroying them. Unfortunately, there are always more a few feet away, and they will quickly grow into the vacated space. Cyperus rotundus is native to Africa, south central Europe and southern Asia. If we could deport it, we would. 

Pictures of Cyperus rotundus from Google

From our webpage on  Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry):

"Virginia strawberry or wild strawberry is a ground-hugging plant rising from a fibrous, perennial root system. Hairy leaf petioles, up to 6 in. long, each bear a single trifoliate leaf. The hairy flower stalk gives rise to a loose cluster of small, five-petaled flowers followed by tasty, wild strawberries."

This means you have a similar problem to the nutgrass, in that the underground roots are perennial, and will live in the soil to send fresh new plants up. From Illinois Wildflowers, we learned that it is  considered a food plant, as well as a host to butterflies and other wildlife. No one seems too interested in getting rid of it. When you read about it, you realize it is much the same situation as the nutgrass, spreading by stolons and rhizomes. However, it apparently goes dormant in warm weather; that might be a good time to launch an attack. Or try making strawberry jam.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Fragaria virginiana

Fragaria virginiana

Fragaria virginiana

 

 

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