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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 - July 09, 2012

From: Sheboygan, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources, Soils, Groundcovers
Title: Wisconsin Ground Cover for Acid Soil
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

What type of native wisconsin ground cover plants do best on acidic bare areas under pine trees such as blue spruce?...and where is best source for these plants or seeds? Thanks so much for your help

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants has memories of chasing an errant golf ball under a beautiful blue spruce that had branches extending to the ground and finding the area inside devoid of life, just needles!   Be sure that if you are trying to encourage a ground cover that the tree is raised a bit so that there is a reasonable amount of sunlight available!

It looks like you have a good number of choices of low plants.  We have a collection of native Wisconsin plants, and this collection is searchable.   I chose plants listed as 0-1 ft. tall and then read the plant record [under “Growing Conditions”] for acidic soil.  14 plants were returned by the search and most of them tolerated acidic or circumneutral soil. 

These five species have a decent groundcover aspect and react well to acidic soil:
Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger)
Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry dogwood)
Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry)
Uvularia sessilifolia (Spreading bellwort)
Viola pedata (Birdfoot violet)

  Whats the best source?   That’s a bit hard to determine from Texas!  I’d encourage you to investigate Wildflower Center Associates and, once again, you can search that list for those close to Sheboygan.   I found  Rolling Acres Natural Landscape and Kettle Moraine Natural Landscaping at the top of that list.  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a publication  "Wisconsin Native Plant Sources" that seems ready made for this question. Other more local good information sources include the Botanical Club of Wisconsin and the Sheboygan County Univ. of Wisconsin Extension Office.

 

From the Image Gallery


Canadian wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Bunchberry dogwood
Cornus canadensis

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Spreading bellwort
Uvularia sessilifolia

Spreading bellwort
Uvularia sessilifolia

Birdfoot violet
Viola pedata

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