Covering the Ground. Why Fight Mother Nature?

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.

Wasps and other pollinators drink in the nectar from groundcovers like pennywort
Wasps and other pollinators drink in the nectar from groundcovers like pennywort

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.

Jumping spiders find it a veritable playground with endless menu choices
Jumping spiders find it a veritable playground with endless menu choices

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).

Skipper butterflies are drawn to frogfruit for nectar
Skipper butterflies are drawn to frogfruit for nectar

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?

While White Peacock Butterflies use the frogfruit as a larval host, they also love to land on the pennywort
While White Peacock Butterflies use the frogfruit as a larval host, they also love to land on the pennywort

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!!!!!!

A mix of groundcovers can be a beautiful thing
A mix of groundcovers can be a beautiful thing

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.

Wasps of all shapes and sizes visit
Wasps of all shapes and sizes visit

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.

Do you worry about snail damage? It won’t show on pennywort and the snails are a great diet addition for birds and turtles
Do you worry about snail damage? It won’t show on pennywort and the snails are a great diet addition for birds and turtles

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.

Drawing insects to your garden naturally draws birds and other fauna
Drawing insects to your garden naturally draws birds and other fauna; beneficial soldier beetle shown
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3 thoughts on “Covering the Ground. Why Fight Mother Nature?”

  1. This is exactly what I was looking for, Loret. Thank you for guiding me here. We have an almost identical mix of plants in our backyard “lawn” and similar pressures as far as large dogs are concerned. Greg is worried about dollarweed taking over, but I am enjoying the wildlife that seems to be attracted to the mix. It’s the perennial debate between doing what’s right for wildlife versus conforming to the standards set by our chemically dependent society – doing what’s right versus doing what’s good for the pocketbook for eventual resale. If even Greg and I (who are so committed to healthy, organic yards and lifestyles) have issues with these dichotomies, we can hardly be surprised when others choose to go along with the crowd.

    Liked by 1 person

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