Is this good as part of a lawn alternative?

Asked October 8, 2019, 11:10 AM EDT

I have planted clover and let my lawn be taken over by weeds. There are many different plants, smartweed, plantain, and lots of this wispy grass pictured. I believe smartweed and plantain are natives? I don’t know if they are beneficial, or what the grass is, see photos. Could you ID it and advise whether it is good as part of a lawn alternative? Should I pull the plantains? I would really appreciate an answer to these specific questions, and would also welcome any general information or suggestions you may have regarding a lawn alternative. Not sedge, it needs to be kept low for light use, pets, etc. Thanks!

District of Columbia lawns and turf weeds plant identification native nimblewill lawn alternatives

1 Response

We think that the grass that you have there is what is called Nimblewill. It is a native perennial grass that goes dormant in the winter. Many turf aficionados see it as a weed, but for your application, given you are looking for easy care natives, it works fine. It will hold the soil in place even when dormant.
Here is our page about it (in the lawn weeds section of the website):
https://www.extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/nimblewill

There are several plantains found in our area. Most commonly Common Plantain with wide leaves and narrow-leaved plantain. We would necessarily remove the wide leaf plantains. They have some pollinator value, and the leaves of the common one are a great when crushed and applied to a bee sting- instant relief.
At the Maryland Biodiversity Project website, the narrow leaf (Plantago lanceolata) is listed as a non-native invasive: https://www.marylandbiodiversity.com/viewSpecies.php?species=2175
while the Common plantain, though from Europe is not listed as non-native or invasive, perhaps because it is so prevalent now. You can also use the search box to look at other types found in Maryland if those don't match what you have.

If you stop managing for weeds you will likely get many more ground violets that we see in your photo, which are native and great for the fritillary butterfly larvae.
The smartweed you have there with the pink flower is probably not the native one, but the invasive 'Oriental'. You can use the search box at the link above to investigate the different kinds.

Finally, here is our page on lawn alternatives:
https://www.extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lawn-alternatives

Christine