Category Archives: Groundcovers

Goat’s Beard

Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus)
Aruncus dioicus

Goat’s Beard has decorative finely-cut foliage and will create a bold, showy effect for a moist or partly-shaded spot all season. Dense, feathery plumes of tight white flowers rise well above the foliage spring to summer.

Goat’s Beard is an excellent background plant or grouped in a woodland setting. It dies back to the ground in winter, only to return gloriously in the spring. Goat’s Beard spreads slowly by rhizomes to form attractive patches, and can be planted in more sunny areas provided there is good moisture. It’s a “host” plant to the Dusky Azure Butterfly.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Perennially Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals, Pollinators
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 5-15ft
  • Mature Width: 3-5ft

Deer Fern

Deer fern (Blechnum spicant)
Blechnum spicant

Blechnum spicant is a species of fern known by the common names deer fern or hard fern. It is native to Europe and western North America. Like some other Blechnum it has two types of leaves. The sterile leaves have flat, wavy-margined leaflets, while the fertile leaves have much narrower leaflets. Deer fern is a major understory plant in most moist coniferous forests in our region.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Moderate
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 1-3ft
  • Mature Width: 2ft

Blue-eyed Grass

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)
Sisyrinchium idahoense

This plant is not a true grass but has a grass-like appearance as it is low-growing with long, thin leaves. They often grow on grasslands and resemble iris, a close relative. The flower is a deep bluish-purple to blue-violet and rarely white. The fruit is a dry dark or pale-brown capsule with one to several seeds in a locule. It blooms from March to May and is quite variable.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pest-eating Insects
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 8-12in
  • Mature Width: 6-12in

Slough Sedge

Slough sedge (Carex obnupta)
Carex Obnupta

Slough sedge is native to western North America from British Columbia to California where it grows in wetland habitats. The plant produces upright, angled stems approaching 1.2 meters in maximum height, growing in beds or colonies from rhizome networks. The inflorescence is a cluster of flower spikes accompanied by a long leaflike bract.

Wildlife

The lens-shaped seeds are eaten by many kinds of wildlife. Birds known to eat sedge seeds include coots, ducks, marsh birds, shorebirds, upland game birds, and songbirds. In addition to providing food for many wildlife species, sedges are also valuable for cover. Frequently they provide nesting cover for ducks, and their tufted growth furnishes concealment and bedding for other animals. Beavers, otters, muskrats and minks make their way through the sedges as they go to and from the water.

Ethnobotanic

The leaves of slough sedge are used for both wrapping and twining in the grass baskets that are well known and widely marketed by Nitinaht and Nootka women even today.

The Nitinaht believed that picking grasses such as slough sedge for baskets and mats causes fog. The fisherman were always getting annoyed with the women who harvested these materials, because they were always making it foggy. It is said that Hesaquiat men shaved with this grass because the edges are so sharp. There is a saying in Hesaquiat which translates as “you’re just like citapt (slough sedge)” – you never change, because slough sedge is always the same and never seems to change in appearance.

Erosion Control

Slough sedge provides erosion control and streambank stabilization. The dense swards of slough sedge provide sediment retention and nutrient uptake, thus contributing to water quality improvement. Emergent wetland plant communities dominated by slough sedge provide the following hydrologic functions: maintaining river or stream meander patterns; providing a broad, shallow plain where streams slow and sediment deposition occurs; stormwater abatement; a mixing zone where brackish and freshwaters meet; and nutrient-rich habitat for aquatic organisms, fish, waterfowl, and predators such as otter, bald eagles, herons, and raccoons to feed.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part sun
  • Water Requirements: Perennially Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 2ft
  • Mature Width: 1ft

Douglas Aster

Douglas Aster (Aster subspicatus)
Aster subspicatus

Douglas Aster is a tall spreading perennial that blooms into the late summer and thrives on saltwater shorelines. The rather lanky stems are topped with bluish purple flowers that look like miniature daisies (ray flowers). The prolific blooms will draw lots of butterflies.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 1-4ft
  • Mature Width: 2ft

Larkspur

Larkspur (Delphinium trollifolium)
Delphinium trollifolium

This wildflower reaches one half to just over one meter in height. It has large, shiny, deeply lobed leaves. The top half of the stem is an inflorescence of widely spaced flowers on long pedicels, the longest over nine centimeters long. The flowers are usually deep brilliant blue. The upper two petals may be milky white. The spur exceeds two centimeters in length in the largest of the flowers. This plant is toxic.

  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 4ft
  • Mature Width: 2ft
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