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

Removing Texas cedar Juniperus ashei from Blanco River banks
February 26, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Should cedar trees be removed from our Blanco River banks to prevent them from sucking too much of our precious water before it makes it into the river system? If so, what s...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses or sedges for a border in Texas
August 12, 2011 - I am in the process of gradually replacing some of my landscaping in Dallas Texas with native Texas plants. Your website has been very helpful. I now wish to replace a liriope border, which has cro...
view the full question and answer

What's invading my bermuda grass?
June 11, 2013 - Our grass is being totally overrun by this weed.(I don't know what the name is identify it by the description. It is in Bermuda grass and the only way to describe the weed is to say it looks like big...
view the full question and answer

Practicality of Cedar Elm and buffalo grass in clay soil in East Texas
July 31, 2007 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I live in Katy Texas on what used to be a rice field. The soil either has a lot of clay in it or in places is just solid clay. Will any kind of buffalo grass grow here? I'v...
view the full question and answer

Growing Indian Wild Rice
September 23, 2010 - Could you tell me who has the Canadian rights to wild indian rice grass. It is a drought tolerant grass used in flour production for gluten free products. thanks
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center