What is the name of this ground cover?

Asked April 7, 2013, 7:40 PM EDT

The attached photo shows a ground cover I want to identify. It is growing in my yard on the Colorado plains.

The greyish-green leaves grow very low to the ground - maybe only 1 inch high. Spreads reasonably easily but not rapidly. Drought tolerant. It also tolerates very bad soil (rocky, sandy, with little moisture retention). Later in the year it has small white flowers and sends out a tangled mass of fine strands which extend up 6-8 inches above the leaves. This mass of strands can be so dense that it completely shades the leaves below, leaving them with too little sunlight to maintain the leaves.

Your guesses? Thank you, Doug

Boulder County Colorado lawns and turf groundcovers horticulture

13 Responses

Doug,

If the tangled mass of fine strands looks kind of like masses of dandelion seeds,
my best guess is Pussytoes (Antennaria). Flowers look a little like a cat's paw pads.

Hello Robert - thank you for your reply. I've found photos for Pussytoes (Antennaria) and my ground cover is different.

What I should have mentioned in my original posting was that the strands are each about 10-16 inches long, small diameter, a bit woody when dry. The mass of strands will easily survive the winter and do not rot away the next season either. You have to cut them off or you will never see through it. The mass of strands gets so dense you cannot see through them to the ground. More ideas?

(Of course it would have been best if I had taken a photo with the strands BEFORE I threw all them into the compost pile. But I did not discover your website until they were gone. :-)

Thank you for your help,

Doug



Doug,
do you think these strands are stolons, that would root to form new plants where they touch ground?
Stolons are like strawberry "runners".

Robert - that thought occurred to me too. Again, I apologize for not looking at the strands closely before I removed them. But the sheer number of strands seems way out of proportion to the number of stolons sent out by strawberry plants.

I got the ground cover from a friend 10 yrs ago. Next time I'm in her part of town, I will see if she still has it and if it might yield any clues. It may take me several weeks to get there because I will be out of town for a while.

If I gather further clues, I will let you know.

Thank you and have a nice weekend, Doug

Doug,
I was not suggesting that this groundcover is strawberry. Just that strawberry produces stolons (runners) and this unknown plant sounds like it produces stolons too. Do these strands seem to root where they touch soil?

Robert - I could have done a better job of phrasing my last message. I realized you were not speculating that it could be strawberry plants. My point was that the sheer number of strands sent out by my ground cover was FAR greater than other plants I know of which send out stolons.

However, I was able to get to my friends house and have attached a photo of her ground cover. In her yard, it sends out far fewer strands than mine.

While the strands are probably stolons, I also know that it can spread without them. I have a volunteer patch which sprung up at least 20 feet from the main planting area.

Thank you for your help!

Doug



Hmmm.....
well, the patch 20 feet away probably got started from seed that somehow got over there.

Are you sure that strands are attached to plants in question, not just dried grasses or parts of other dried plants growing among the groundcover plants?

At this point I'll ask that you send us later1-3 closeup photos of flowers on the groundcover

Hello Robert - When it blooms, I will send you a few macro photos,

I guess it is possible that the strands are a different type of plant which was mixed in with the ground cover when I received it. I'll look more closely as it grows this year.

Thank you, Doug

Hello Robert - several months ago we tried to identify a ground cover I have. Now that I've seen more of its life cycle, I'm ready to resume our discussion.

1. I showed a sample of it to a Master Gardener. She said it was a member of the Asteraceae family. That seems to fit based on what I’ve seen on the web. But apparently there are more than 23,000 species in this family so I need to narrow it down further.


2. It does send out stolons. I transplanted a single plant onto a large patch of bare ground where I could observe it closely. I’ve now seen it send out stolons with clones on their ends and I’ve seen the clones take root. I’m now confident that most of the fine strands I mentioned earlier are the dead stolons. The huge number of dead strands I saw were probably the result of several years of growth which was never cleared away between seasons. A small percentage of the strands are the dead stalks from flowers


3. Attached are photos of the blooms (from early June) and stolons and clones (photographed in September).

Does this help you identify it? Is there anything else I should provide?


Thank you for your help, Doug

Doug,
additional photos really helped. Our Native Plant Master Program Director, Barbara Fahey, identified this as Whiplash Daisy aka Trailing Fleabane (Erigeron flagellaris). It is in the Asteraceae (Aster or Sunflower Family).

See also http://www.swcoloradowildflowers.com/White%20Enlarged%20Photo%20Pages/erigeron%20flagellaris.htm

Thank you Robert and Ms Fahey.

Now that you've identified it for me, I've started looking further and found the answer to my next question. The state of Utah says it makes an excellent alternative to a lawn (http://www.waterwiseplants.utah.gov/default.asp?p=PlantInfo&Plant=155&Cart=). And that is exactly what I had in mind - use it instead of turf grass in a large section of my back yard.

Doug

Doug, It probably won't tolerate foot traffic real well and it will allow a few weeds, but should cover some ground for you.

To propagate, suggest you "direct" stolons into 3-4 inch pots of soil, water these pots occasionally to hasten new plants development. When new plant is well-rooted into pot, there's your transplant. You may need to overwinter these new plants in pots. I'm guessing that planting these on 2-foot centers next spring would give you reasonably quick cover. A little watering could help, but may also encourage weeds.

Robert - thanks for the propagation tips.

I hadn't thought about how it would react to foot traffic. But independent of how the plant would withstand foot traffic, I discovered that there is another reason to plant it in areas which are largely traffic free - the mass of stolons make walking through it a pain - have to lift your feet up high to keep from getting snagged by the stolons.

Doug