This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on August 13, 2013 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments and find working links to other stories.
I recently read a comment about grassy areas. I don’t remember where I read it but the person remarked how their lawn area was bare from dog traffic. Now, I have two dogs and not that long ago I had three. Big dogs. Of the sporting variety and they spend a lot of time outside trotting around, flushing out rabbits, trying to catch anoles and even chasing bird shadows. There is one section where they are allowed to dig…and over the years, the late and great Chili, the Irish setter nearly made it to China. That section is under the Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) where it is barely noticeable.
The rest of my yard is green…maybe one or two bare spots where the dogs attempted to create a new dig area. For the most part, the yard is green with tight groundcovers so during rainy season I don’t get a heck of a lot of mud tracked in (except maybe if the paws dug under the palmetto).
I set out to figure out why, with my crew, and the two other woofs I baby-sit for…why is my place green and not muddy?
I took a look and I have a medley of native groundcovers that I had nothing to do with planting. No monoculture here…Mother Nature doesn’t believe in that. There is fogfruit (or frogfruit…the vernacular depending upon where you live) (Phyla nodiflora), various native sedges, Virginia Buttonweed (Diodia virginiana), spadeleaf (Centella asiatica), exotic bahia grass (not my choice) and pennywort. Plenty of Manyflower Marshpennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), a native variety of …you know… that groundcover that everyone is set on killing…the dreaded <gasp> DOLLARWEED!!!!!!
Well heck, yeah, it can be aggressive but it fits in nicely with my other groundcovers and while there is a lot of it, it certainly isn’t taking over the guy next to it. Everyone gets along fine. Soooo, if someone is looking for a groundcover, why not just go with Dollarweed and save your dollars? Cheap groundcover that coupled with a few other native plants, stand up to dog paws.
Pennywort is said to be edible but use caution as it is a natural filter that absorbs chemicals, including pesticides and fertilizers from runoff so care should be taken that the population of plants is in a non-targeted area before ingesting. It is sturdy and will maintain soil stability. The butterflies, bees and other pollinators love it when it blooms, certain spiders use it to build their low webs and others use it to hide from spider wasps. It provides shade for small frogs and toads. It does require moisture so if you are very dry, it wouldn’t be appropriate, as we want to conserve water, not use it to keep ANY area green.
One section of the yard had a pile of mulch that didn’t get distributed so I turned into a “mound” of these various groundcovers as a pollinator haven. It is bevy of activity all the time and another interesting element of my native plant and wildlife garden.