Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - April 19, 2013

From: Ottawa, ON
Region: Canada
Topic: Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like, Vines
Title: Groundcover Under Maple Tree in Ottawa That Takes Foot Traffic
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

Hi, I am looking for a groundcover to put under a large maple tree that will be alright for kids to run about on and will be happy in the Ottawa climate. Your other answers to similar questions have been helpful, but I would like to have something that kids can run about on. Thank you so very much.

ANSWER:

You have presented a tough challenge in your quest a native groundcover that is hardy in your zone and tolerates shade as well as foot traffic. The first place to start to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.

Under Combination Search, select the following categories to start: Ontario, Habit – grass, grass-like, Duration – perennial, Light requirement – shade, Soil moisture – moist, Size characteristics – 0-1 ft.

The result of this search turned up six Carex species. These are sedges that are grass-like plants that grow in clumps and are quite underused as groundcovers. Some grow better in moist sites and others are better for dryer locations. Look over the following Carex to see if one is a good match for under your maple tree site. By the way, there are a few Carex (Carex pensa, Carex divulsa, Carex texensis, Carex flacca) that aren’t hardy in your area, that spread by rhizomes to form a carpet and can tolerate moderate foot traffic, but most of them can only tolerate light foot traffic (or no foot traffic).

So, some possible groundcovers from the Wildflower Center's database are:

Carex chordorrhiza (creeping sedge)

Carex eburnea (bristleleaf sedge)

Carex echinata (star sedge)

Carex interior (inland sedge)

Carex pedunculata (longstalk sedge) Take a look at the Ontrio Grasses website for more information on longstalk sedge.

Another option is to plant a vine as a groundcover (such as Parthenocissus vitacea (hiedra creeper or woodbine) and put a stepping stone path through the vine. You children might like to jump from stone to stone like hopping from island to island in a sea of plants. This could also work with the Carex too.

 

More Vines Questions

Transplanting honeysuckle
September 02, 2006 - How do I transplant Honeysuckle?
view the full question and answer

Growing native vines in pots from Houston
May 28, 2012 - I am writing in regards to your often mentioned issue of plants not doing as well in pots and in the ground. After last years drought, i moved all the plants I had that were in danger of dying of t...
view the full question and answer

Flowering vine that will bloom in East Texas in March
October 08, 2008 - What kind of flowering vine will bloom at the end of March in New Caney, Tex. 77357?
view the full question and answer

Information about mustang grapes
March 14, 2016 - We live in the Driftwood area. There is a native vine that looks like Mustang grape but never produces. A friend who is native to this area called it rat vine. I miss my Mustang grape jelly. Is t...
view the full question and answer

Identity of night-glowing object in tree in New Hampshire
August 02, 2013 - I know this sounds crazy but last night when my husband stepped outside he noticed a purplish glow in one of the trees. At first he thought some kind of animal but when throwing a rock at it it did no...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.