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 Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Erosion control in Santaquin UT
August 11, 2009 - I have a hill in my backyard; it is about 40 ft tall and about 80 ft wide. It is probably a 1.5 to 1 slope ratio. I am going to be landscaping my back yard and have top soil put on the hill as well. S...
view the full question and answer

Plants to stabilize a steep slope in east Texas
November 09, 2009 - We have a very steep dirt dam in Winnsboro TX, full sun, and burmuda and rye grasses have not been enough to keep from having some mud sliding. We keep adding clay and reworking but want to preserve t...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a bank too steep to mow
June 24, 2009 - Like the inquiry made in late June of 2008, mine involves a bank that is too steep to mow. However, ours is facing south. I am looking for a native grass, plant or groundcover. Any suggestions? ...
view the full question and answer

Bunch grasses for labyrinth that are good for livestock
September 29, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm designing an outdoor labyrinth that will be in full sun in our black Slidell clay soil here in north central Texas. The area MAY be mowed for hay at a later date (i.e...
view the full question and answer

Grasses to stabilize creek bed in Bastrop County, Texas
May 06, 2011 - Hello, we have property in Bastrop county, the soil is sandy loam with clay underneath. We need to stabilize a creek bed, can you suggest any particular grasses (seed) for this? Know it's not the be...
view the full question and answer

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