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Thursday - August 22, 2013

From: Bronson, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Rain Gardens, Trees, Wildflowers
Title: Native Plants for a water collection pit in Bronson, FL
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I live near Gainesville, FL in a low rural area with many cypress swamps around & bought this 5 acres 2 years ago. About 15 years ago a pit was dug on my 5 acres to give the rainwater somewhere to go. Since we've been in a drought, although still useful, the pit stays dry most years, unless there's a tropical storm or hurricane. The sides are way too steep to mow. I have sprayed roundup to keep the weeds at bay, but would like to plant something useful and pleasant to look at. Any suggestions? I have planted a couple of bald cypress trees around the edge and actually planted one right in the pit! At the moment there is about 5-7" of water since we've had quite a bit of rain this summer.

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants lives in Texas, so after three years of drought the thought of dealing with a damp area is astonishing. I'm assuming that when you say "dry", it actually means no standing water, unlike the "dry" we have here!  A Taxodium distichum (Bald cypress) tree should work just fine in that kind of pit as they are well adapted to wet environments; we can look for similar characteristics to recommend plants for your pit.

  The plan is to use the list of “Recommended Species” for Central Florida and limit the list to plants that are well adapted to “wet” or “moist” conditions.  From this, we have a list of 54 plants that may well fit.  (If you disagree with my assumption that the pit is "wet" or "moist", just do the same search for the conditions you expect.)

For sides too steep to mow, grasses or ground-covers would serve well.

Grasses:  Distichlis spicata (Saltgrass)Leersia oryzoides (Rice cut grass)Rhynchospora colorata (Starrush whitetop)Rhynchospora latifolia (Sandswamp whitetop), Cladium mariscus ssp. jamaicense (Jamaica swamp sawgrass) (The Jamacan Sawgrass is more adapted to dryer conditions)  

For “pleasant to look at” some similar wildflowers would suit. These are generally low enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about mowing.  Some are even perennial!

Forbs:  Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp sunflower)Hibiscus coccineus (Scarlet rose-mallow), Asclepias lanceolata (Fewflower milkweed).  For dryer conditions - Bidens laevis (Smooth beggartick), Chrysopsis mariana (Maryland goldenaster)Coreopsis gladiata (Coastal plain tickseed)Iris hexagona (Dixie iris)Lilium catesbaei (Pine lily), Sisyrinchium angustifolium (Narrowleaf blue-eyed grass)

Other trees may give you some variety:  Ilex opaca (American holly) [also good in dry conditions],  Pinus serotina (Pond pine),  Quercus nigra (Water oak)

 

From the Image Gallery


Starrush whitetop
Rhynchospora colorata

Jamaica swamp sawgrass
Cladium mariscus ssp. jamaicense

Narrowleaf blue-eyed grass
Sisyrinchium angustifolium

Dixie iris
Iris hexagona

Smooth beggartick
Bidens laevis

American holly
Ilex opaca

Bald cypress
Taxodium distichum

Water oak
Quercus nigra

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