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?

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
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

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

Problem with weeds in the buffalograss
June 11, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm about to throw in the towel! My back 'lawn' of buffalo grass (609) is almost all 'weeds'! Native ruellia and lyre leaf sage have taken over and as the area has gott...
view the full question and answer

Curvularia blight in buffalograss in Kansas
March 05, 2009 - Our buffalo grass is infected with a fungus called curvularia. How can we treat it?
view the full question and answer

Plants for slope in central Alabama
July 26, 2011 - Our home is atop a 20-25' eastern facing sandy loam slope in central Alabama. It was previously covered w/ kudzu. After 3 yrs. of eradication of the kudzu we are ready to plant with native grasses/pl...
view the full question and answer

Developing fields with native plants from New Egypt NJ
July 24, 2013 - I have several acres of fields that I want to develop with native grasses and flowers. I would like to know the best time to mow the fields so that bushes and volunteer trees don't take over and that...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for steep slope in Washington DC
May 07, 2010 - We have a steep slope in our garden in Washington DC which has sun from noon to sun set. Could you please recommend some low maintenance plants which would be a good ground cover and limit erosion?
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center