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Better Know a Native

Latest posts by Lynn Kunstman (see all)

You are all well aware that I have been beating the Native Plants drum for some time now. Last year, I wrote a four-part series outlining the reasons for growing native plants. Now, with our Native Plant Nursery back up and running after last year’s water crisis, I thought I would begin introducing you to plants we grow. I am going to begin with ground covers and grasses.

 

Many folks are considering removing part or all of their traditional lawns, as the water situation in the valley evolves and concerns for conserving water grow. Growing native ground covers and native grasses can be a great choice if you are wanting a more drought tolerant, low (relatively) growing area of vegetation in your yard. While these natives will not tolerate the mowing and foot traffic of a conventional turf lawn, they will cover the space, outcompete weeds, and require much less irrigation. Remember that native plants have roots that reach many feet–typically six to fifteen feet–into the soil and therefore require much less irrigation, once established.

 

Currently we have two ground covers and two native grasses available in the nursery. The groundcovers are native Yarrow and native Self Heal. The grasses are Tufted Hairgrass and Blue Wild Rye. Here is a brief description of each.

    Tufted Hairgrass, Deschampsia cespitosa, is a native bunchgrass. It grows naturally in moist, high elevation sites; sandy or rocky shores; bogs & fens and requires medium water. It does best in part shade. The seeds are an important food for birds, and it is host to Skipper butterflies (Hesperiidae family). If you have an area that gets regular water, this is a grass you might consider.

 

   Blue Wild Rye, Elymus glaucus, is a cool season, tufted perennial bunchgrass. The loose to dense tufts have erect to somewhat nodding seedheads. The foliage is blue-green in color. Growing 3-6 feet, this decorative grass likes part shade, and will tolerate dry sites. It is a desirable species for use in erosion control. The attractive, blue-green foliage adds value to commercial landscaping projects. It is host to nine species of butterfly and moth.

 

   Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a tough, lacy gray-green evergreen perennial herb. It grows 2-3 feet tall, with white flowers. It fills spaces aggressively, to form a thick, weed- preventing mat. Bloom lasts from April into September. It does well in both full sun and part shade and is especially drought tolerant. Added benefits are that it is fire resistant, hosts 10 butterfly and moth species, and is of special value to native bees.

 

      Self Heal, Prunella vulgaris, is a vigorously spreading member of the mint family. This tough little native grows 6 inches to 2 feet tall and forms a lush green mat. It is topped with lovely purple flower stalks from May through September. It can be grown most anywhere, with a little extra water in very dry conditions. In very hot areas, give it a spot that is protected from the hot afternoon sun. Self Heal is a favorite of bumblebees and butterflies, both as a nectar and a host plant.

 

All of these plants and many more are for sale in our JCMGA nursery, on the SOREC Extension campus, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. The nursery is open for sales on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon through October, and by appointment. Contact Lynn at kunlynn52@gmail.com to schedule an appointment.   We also have seasonal pop-up sales, so be on the lookout for those.