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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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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!

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Wednesday - September 11, 2013

From: Rowley, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native, low maintenance lawn for Rowley MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am in Northeastern (coastal) Massachusetts and I am looking to replace my (currently high maintenance, water intensive, invasive species) lawn with a native, low maintenance species (or mix). Many of the "native" seeds and mixes available use species like Buffalograss that are no more native to my area than a European or Asian import. Do you have any suggestions for a native lawn for my area?

ANSWER:

In our queue of questions for Mr. Smarty Plants today we have two questions from two entirely different parts of the country, both asking for lawn selection help. To help you know what page we are on in terms of lawn grasses, please read this recent article from the New York Times "Lose the Lawn". Here also is a list of previous Mr. Smarty Plants questions on groundcovers from Massachusetts:

Brockton, MA

Brookfield, MA

Pembroke, MA

Harvard, MA

Now that we have made our introductory statements, here is what we can do to try to help you find appropriate plants for your particular situation. You are quite right that Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) is not native to Massachusetts. This USDA Plant Profile Map shows it grows natively (green states) up the center of North America into Canada. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which it grows naturally; in your case, Essex County, MA in the northeasternn corner of Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, we will search our Native Plant Database to see what we can find for you. We are at something of a disadvantage because, unlike the other question from Austin, you gave us no indication of whether you have sun or shade where you want to garden, so our database search will have to be more general in nature. Please read the other Mr. Smarty Plants question we answered on this same subjtect to keep us from saying the same things over again. You have to understand we are really not looking for lawns but for substitute groundcovers that will serve your purpose. After following the above link to our database, we will scroll down to Combination Search and make our first search on Massachusetts, "grass or grass-like for Habit, "moist" for soil moisture and 0' to 1' for height. We will run the same search for "herbs" (herbaceous blooming plants" for Habit. Once you know how to use our database, you can go back in and do your own search, specifying other habits like shrubs, a more correct soil moisture and Light Requirements. Follow each plant link on our suggested list to our webpage on that plant for growing conditions, whether it is evergreen or deciduous, etc.

Grasses and grass-like plants for Rowley MA: This was pretty disappointing; there were a few sedges and we had no pictures of any of them in our Image Gallery. You might find the link at the bottom of the webpage on each plant to Google and see if you can get more information or pictures.

Carex echinata (Star sedge)

Carex interior (Inland sedge)

Carex leptalea (Bristlystalked sedge)

Carex pedunculata (Longstalk sedge)

Cyperus esculentus (Yellow nutsedge)

Herbaceous blooming plants:

Anemone quinquefolia (Wood anemone)

Argentina anserina (Silverweed cinquefoil)

Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger)

Clintonia borealis (Bluebead)

Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry dogwood)

Coptis trifolia (Threeleaf goldthread)

 

From the Image Gallery


Wood anemone
Anemone quinquefolia

Silverweed cinquefoil
Argentina anserina

Canadian wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Bluebead
Clintonia borealis

Bunchberry dogwood
Cornus canadensis

Threeleaf goldthread
Coptis trifolia

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