Wild Ones   Wild Ones Archive 2002, Nov 08:  
  QUES #23: White Oaks  

Wild Ones 2002 Archive

    QUESTION #23: White Oaks

    I have an old white oak near the road in front of my house. I'd like some suggestions about various native plants that could grow under that tree, including ground covers, low growing plants, and small shrubs. Thanks!

    -- Linda of Grand Rapids, MI



    Viburnum acerifolium, Gaylussacia baccata, Vaccinium (blueberry), Aster macrophyllus, Desmodium glutinosum, Desmodium nudicaulis, Sangunaria canadensis, Asarum canadensis, Aquilegia canadensis, Campanula americana, Corylus americanus, Diervilla lonicera, Dentaria lacinata, Actea pachpoda, there are hundreds of shrubs and flowers that grow under white oaks. Carex pensylvanica, Luzula multiflora. etc. etc. Go walk in an oak woods around you and see what is there.

    -- Pat of Naperville, IL


    Usually you think spring blooming plants to grow under oaks: bloodroot, mayapple, bellwort, jack in the pulpit, trout lilly, wood sorrel, wood poppy, trillium, virginia bluebells. For summer interest/blooms add solomon's seal, spiderwort, black snakeroot (cohosh), ferns, foamflower. In the fall I love the look of goldenrod and asters. Be sure to add some Pennsylvania sedge. I consider it the fabric that holds the wildflowers. It's a very small attractive grass.

    If you have any remnant natives already under the oaks, I highly recommend a controlled burn in fall or early spring. (Be sure you know what you're doing!) The first year after I burned under my oaks, one spiderwort became 5, my sedges tripled. Five years later the trout lilies blanket the ground in the spring, and fall asters are spectacular! Enjoy!

    -- Karen in Barrington, IL


    Any number of prairie grasses (except side oats, perhaps) would do just fine. Likewise there are just scores and scores of wildflowers that will flourish in the dappled shade of a white oak. I suggest you check out either Prairie Moon's catalogue (www.prairiemoonnursery.com), which in its description of the cultural requirements of offered plants can give you the information you wish, or the Tallgrass Restoration Handbook by Packard & Mutel (Island Press 1997, ISBN: 1-55963-320-4) Chapter 11 (especially pages 171 -181). In this latter work there are just oodles of possibilities.

    -- Joe of Brown Deer, WI

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