Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - June 03, 2008

From: Rochester, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Ferns, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Short or mowable plant for walkway
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'd like a short and/or mowable plant to use as a walkway in and around a vegetable garden in upstate NY. I was planning on clover, but I want to use a native plant if possible. The native clovers seem like they might be too tall. If it can help the soil/wildlife, all the better.

ANSWER:

It isn't clear to me whether there will be much foot traffic on your walkways. I am not sure how the native clovers, the two groundcovers or the fern would fare under heavy traffic. The sedges listed below might withstand foot traffic the best.

The following are the native clovers that are found in New York:

Dalea purpurea (purple prairie clover) up to 2 feet tall

Lespedeza capitata (roundhead lespedeza) 2 to 4 feet

Lespedeza repens (creeping lespedeza) up to 1.5 feet, photo from Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

Lespedeza stuevei (tall lespedeza) 1.5 to 5 feet tall

Lespedeza virginica (slender lespedeza) 2 to 4 feet

Please don't use any of the species of Trifolium. They are introduced species and several of these are listed on the Weeds of the Northeast as invasive species.

There are two low ground covers that are evergreen that do well in part shade (2 to 6 hours per day of sunlight) or shade (<2 hours per day of sunlight).

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) evergreen, 2 to 6 inches, prefers part shade or shade

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) evergreen, up to 2 inches, prefers part shade or shade

There is an evergreen fern, Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), that grows from 1 to 2 feet and prefers sun or part shade.

One of the sedges might be a good choice. Sedge are grasslike and can be mowed, most are evergreen and low-growing. You can read about Woodland Sedges, in an article from the North American Native Plant Society. Below are several sedges that are found in New York.

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Carex vulpinoidea (fox sedge)

Visit our Recommended Species page and select New York from the map to see a list of native species suitable for landscaping in New York and are avaiable commercially.


Dalea purpurea

Lespedeza capitata

Lespedeza stuevei

Lespedeza virginica

Gaultheria procumbens

Mitchella repens

Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Carex texensis

Carex vulpinoidea

 

 

More Ferns Questions

Erosion control for a North Carolina creek side
February 29, 2012 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! I noticed a question on your website recommending NC native grasses and plants to help prevent erosion on a sloping backyard, including the use of an erosion blanket. The pl...
view the full question and answer

Fertilizer for Maidenhair Fern in Bay Point CA
October 05, 2009 - Is it possible to feed a Maidenhair Fern the same plant food as a African Violet? I use Schultz African Violet Plus.
view the full question and answer

Erosion controlling plants for a shady Minnesota lakeside
August 11, 2015 - I live about 50 yards from a lake and there is a steep embankment. Recently someone decided to cut the trees off the embankment and now the dirt is eroding off the embankment as well as off my back ya...
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant plants for area under grand fir (Abies grandis) in Idaho
July 08, 2010 - What can I plant on a slope under Grand Fir trees in North Idaho, zone 4 - anything deer resistant?
view the full question and answer

Growing mosses in the Pacific Northwest
February 05, 2015 - Can you provide information on types of Mosses as well as Microferns in the Northwest Mountain region near Seattle? I assume that Mosses and Microferns are more resilient to foot traffic (i.e.Cush...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.