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Saturday - April 18, 2015

From: Baltimore, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Title: Native Groundcover For Under Pine Trees in Maryland
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


I am looking for a groundcover to plant under pine trees in Maryland to prevent erosion.


Let’s start first with a list of native plants for your area. Take a look at the Native Plant Database on the website and put in the following search criteria: State = Maryland, habit = herb (for herbaceous) and then search for vines, duration = perennial, light requirement = shade, soil moisture = dry (the pine trees will divert much of the soil moisture).  Then select the height you desire. Most groundcovers are in the 0-1 foot category but there are some nice taller plants that will work too. This will generate a list of herbaceous plants. Do the search again for vines to add to your list. 

Some herbaceous plants to consider …

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry)

A trailing, evergreen herb with white, fragrant, tubular flowers in pairs. Partridgeberry is a creeping, perennial herb, no taller than 2 in. high. All parts are dainty, including its pairs of small, rounded, evergreen leaves; tiny, trumpet-shaped, pinkish-white flowers; and scarlet berries.

A most attractive woodland creeper with highly ornamental foliage, it can be used as a groundcover under acid-loving shrubs and in terraria in the winter. The common name implies that the scarlet fruits are relished by partridges, and they are consumed by a variety of birds and mammals. Dry or moist woods; stream banks; sandy slopes. This is a good ground cover for shady, undisturbed locations. It is sensitive to disturbance and needs to be kept moist unless it is in soil rich enough and a location shady enough that it can retain adequate moisture. If it begins to wilt from drought stress, water within two days or it will start to die. A low-growing, evergreen groundcover for rich, woodland soils in eastern North America.

If you would like a taller, shrubbier groundcover, perhaps you might consider Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

This small, mound-shaped, deciduous shrub with shredding bark on older wood and brown to purplish branchlets covered with short hairs visible under a 10x hand lens, usually grows to 4 ft. but can reach 6 ft. Its smooth, dull green leaves are opposite and roughly oval, tapering about equally to tip and base, up to 2 inches long but often less than 1 inch, with smooth, turned down margins and a rounded or broadly pointed tip. The greenish-white flower clusters are not as showy as the clusters of coral-pink to purple berries up to 1/4 inch in diameter which remain on the plant through winter.

Particularly common in Post Oak (Quercus stellata) woods, Coralberry forms extensive colonies and spreads by rooting at the nodes where it touches the ground. A good choice for a woodland garden. A low-growing forest shrub with attractive winter berries and persistent, bright green foliage for use in eastern North America.

Or Pteridium aquilinum (Western bracken fern)

A very aggressive fern of worldwide distribution for dry woodlands. The only fern for most dry shade situations. Ideal for dry Post Oak (Quercus stellata) forests and pine forests. The tripartite, furry, silvery fiddleheads emerge in early spring. The roots colonize aggressively and extend deep in search of moisture, as far as 10 feet deep in some locations. Does not tolerate flooding. Though tolerant of dry soils, it goes dormant during droughts that last more than a week or two and will begin to die if it doesn't receive rain for 3 months. Requires a lot of water to get it established, but once established, relatively drought-tolerant, persistent, and aggressive.


From the Image Gallery

Mitchella repens

Mitchella repens

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Western bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum

Western bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum

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