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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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Sunday - October 02, 2011

From: Jacksonville, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Groundcovers
Title: Invasive non-native mulberry and groundcover in Jacksonville FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Northeast Florida (Jacksonville) inland. My mulberry tree provides dense shade in the summer and filtered light the other seasons, leaving sand in its growing area. What fast growing ground cover would take and survive under these conditions? Thanks!

ANSWER:

You did not say which mulberry you have. It could be Broussenetia papynifera, Paper Mulberry, which is native to China, or Morus rubra (Red Mulberry), native to the Eastern United States, but frequently hybridized with Morus alba, White Mulberry, also native to China.

Can we first talk about the Broussenetia papynifera, paper mulberry? In a word, we don't like it. It has become very invasive, spread by both birds and root sprouts, and both the seed dropping from birds and the berries themselves will stain any surface they land on. From the Plant Conservation Alliance Alien Plant Working Group, read this article on Paper Mulberry. They don't like it, either, putting it on their "Least Wanted" list.  University of Florida Extension Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants has information on the Paper Mulberry, and how invasive it is in Florida. Even if Broussenetia papynifera is not the precise species you have, most are non-native and invasive.

Quite aside from all that, we are not surprised you are having difficulty growing anything under that tree. The dense shade, berry drop and close to the surface invasive roots are not hospitable to any kind of competitive growth. As the seed and fruit drop and begin to develop new plants the competition will get even worse. Even our frequent suggestion of putting a good quality mulch on the under-tree area doesn't seem very practical. The thought of the berries and bird droppings combined with the mulch is not appealing.

Having expressed our opinion, we suggest you go to our Native Plant Database, select Florida, "Herb" (herbaceous blooming plant), part shade and shade and desired height, suggested 0 to 1 ft. We will give you a list of possible candidates, but remember, we absolutely do not guarantee that any of them will grow under your tree.

Groundcovers for shade in Florida:

Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup)

Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy)

Chrysogonum virginianum (Green and gold)

Glandularia canadensis (Rose vervain)

Hexastylis arifolia (Littlebrownjug)

Hydrocotyle umbellata (Manyflower marshpennywort)

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Winecup
Callirhoe involucrata

Little brown jug
Hexastylis arifolia

Rose vervain
Glandularia canadensis

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Green and gold
Chrysogonum virginianum

Manyflower marsh-pennywort
Hydrocotyle umbellata

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