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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.

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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.

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Friday - March 18, 2016

From: Babylon, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Groundcovers
Title: Fast Growing Groundcovers for Long Island
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

Can you please suggest a few fast growing groundcovers suitable for the south shore of Long Island? The area is fairly sunny and dry.

ANSWER:

There are several groundcovers that resulted from a search of the Native Plant Database that perhaps will be suitable for your shoreline property on Long Island.These will tolerate full sun, dray conditions and are less than 1 foot tall.

 

Antennaria neglecta (field pussytoes)

Antennaria parlinii (Parlin's pussytoes)

Antennaria plantaginifolia (plantain leaf pussytoes)

A low, colony-forming plant, spreading by runners, with basal leaves and erect stems, each bearing a terminal cluster of fuzzy, rayless flower heads.

The crowded flower heads are thought to resemble a cats paw, hence the common name. Male and the showier female flowers are on different plants. In some species of pussytoes the male flower heads are rare, even unknown, the female flower heads producing seeds without pollination. Most of our many species of Antennaria are difficult to identify, but Plantain-leaf Pussytoes is not a problem, nor is the similar-leaved Single-head Pussytoes (A. solitaria), found from Pennsylvania west to Illinois and south to the Gulf of Mexico; as its common name indicates, each stem bears a single flower head.

Fragaria chiloensis (beach strawberry)

Shiny, dark-green, trifoliate leaves arise from the creeping, horizontal runners or this large-flowered, wild strawberry. A low plant connected to others by runners, at least when young, often growing in patches, with white flowers on stalks slightly shorter than leaves. The white, five-petaled flowers are followed on the female plants by large, red berries. Beach strawberry or coast strawberry is a perennial.

Phlox subulata (creeping phlox)

A perennial forming evergreen mats of needle-like foliage, covered by masses of flowers in various shades of pink, purple or white. A low plant, forming moss-like mats, with pink to lavender (rarely white) flowers in clusters at stem ends, collectively forming a continuous carpet of flowers.

Various color forms of this species are cultivated, especially in rock gardens. Those growing wild in New England have escaped from cultivation.

Tradescantia occidentalis (prairie spiderwort)

The erect, branching stems of this perennial are up to 2 ft. tall. Its leaves are long and narrow with a whitish bloom. Several flowers, in clusters at stem or branch ends, are subtended by bracts similar to the leaves. There are three blue-violet petals and six stamens with yellow anthers. Spiderwort flowers close by mid-day and last only one day.

 

From the Image Gallery


Field pussytoes
Antennaria neglecta

Parlin's pussytoes
Antennaria parlinii

Woman's tobacco
Antennaria plantaginifolia

Beach strawberry
Fragaria chiloensis

Creeping phlox
Phlox subulata

Creeping phlox
Phlox subulata

Prairie spiderwort
Tradescantia occidentalis

Prairie spiderwort
Tradescantia occidentalis

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Native groundcover for sun in East Texas
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