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

Tuesday - March 26, 2013

From: Cambridge, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Problem Plants, Shade Tolerant, Ferns, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Plants to grow in shady area near a pecan tree in Maryland
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I have planted only natives in my front lawn. My backyard, which sports a pecan tree, fir, fig tree, and others I can't identify is dirt, just dirt. I have tried local grass seeds. Nothing takes. Do you have any suggestions?


I think your problem is twofold:  1) shade and, perhaps, 2) the allelopathic effect of the juglone in the pecan tree.  Juglones are chemicals produced by trees in the Family Juglandaceae (Walnut Family) that are capable of inhibiting the growth of some, but not all, other plants. You can see lists of plants susceptible to juglones and those tolerant of juglones from Ohio State University.  (Be aware that not all the plants on their list are native to Maryland or even to North America.)  It appears that the level of  juglone in Carya illinoinensis (pecan) is less than in walnuts.  Grasses, in general, seem to be tolerant of juglones.  In fact, there have been studies showing that bermudagrass and tall fescue are allelopathic to pecan seedlings!

Here are three grasses and a sedge that occur in Maryland and will grow in the shade or part shade.  I have personal experience with inland sea oats growing quite happily under my walnut tree in Texas and suspect the other three species will also be tolerant of your pecan's juglones.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Here are a few herbs and a fern from the Ohio State University list that are native to Maryland and will grow in the shade or part shade:

Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit)

Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches)

Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)

Trillium species such as Trillium grandiflorum (Large-flower wakerobin)

Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia spiderwort)

Viola canadensis (Canadian white violet) and Viola pedata (Birdfoot violet) and other violets

Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern)

For all the species named above, you should check the other characteristics shown under GROWING CONDITIONS on the species page to determine if they match those of your site.


From the Image Gallery

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Jack in the pulpit
Arisaema triphyllum

Dutchman's breeches
Dicentra cucullaria

Sanguinaria canadensis

White wake-robin
Trillium grandiflorum

Virginia spiderwort
Tradescantia virginiana

Canadian white violet
Viola canadensis

Birdfoot violet
Viola pedata

Cinnamon fern
Osmunda cinnamomea

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Replacing grass with native Texas sedges
March 24, 2005 - I have been trying to grow native Texas sedges instead of grass in my back yard for the last two years. Much of it is shaded by a canopy of elms, juniper, and oak. I have put a local organic fertili...
view the full question and answer

Control methods for Cenchrus spinifex, Coastal sandbur
September 22, 2006 - I have some of the nicest, thickest, greenest grassburs in the county of Erath. What is the best and quickest way to get rid of them? I have heard of a product called cornmeal gluten. Any info appreci...
view the full question and answer

Need help with lawn that was sodded with Buffalo Grass in Dallas, TX.
March 20, 2012 - I had buffalo sod put down last March. It greened up beautifully until weeds just about covered it up. I tried hand pulling. My landscaper showed up with something that appeared to damage the buffa...
view the full question and answer

Plants for slope on Orcas Island, WA
July 21, 2011 - Hi! What a great site! Okay, I have a home on Orcas Island, WA. We live here from about June through September, but only visit once a month or so the other times of the year. We are looking for somet...
view the full question and answer

Need native plants to place in chicken coop in Charolette, NC
September 20, 2014 - Hi, I live near Charlotte, NC. I'm looking for native plants that I can plant in my chicken coop that will produce food for the chickens. If they also produced some delicious food for me, I wouldn't...
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