Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Horse of A Disparaged Color


Poor horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis). It's gotten bad rap. Some consider it an invasive pest. You have seen it often, one of those weeds that, if you live in Austin, is ever present on the periphery, popping up in St. Augustine lawns or clinging to the driveway, an afterthought, like the variety of moss rose (portulaca) that grows out of the cracks in the sidewalk pavement. Yet its miniaturized charm is hard to resist: spritely green foliage dotted with even tinier yellow daisies—that bloom throughout the spring and summer. But it has a role as a viable groundcover plant. It is growing here and there all over my plot, and today I dug up bunches and transplanted them to the front yard which is currently a dirt patch. The plan is to convert much of the front "lawn" to horseherb cover. It can be mowed; takes foot traffic, and tolerates poor soil, drought, and variable light conditions. What's not to like? Since it will be contained between a sidewalk and the driveway, I'm not concerned about its robust spreading by runner. Horseherb's other name is "Straggler Daisy." Clearly this plant needs a PR firm to handle its image and conduct a relaunch under a new and more positive name.
Daisy Carpet?
Little Miss Sunshine?
Yellow Star of Texas?

10 comments:

Caroline said...

I love horseherb, too. It grows spontaneously in my yard and is the only thing that grows on the shady west side of the house. Maybe they should call it "kittenherb" or "puppyherb"? Something cute and cuddly?

Mary said...

My botany prof at UT used horseherb as a groundcover in his backyard...it was lush and beautiful. The name really doesn't do it justice!

Pam/Digging said...

You can be its new publicist, Libby. You make a good case. I haven't learned to love horseherb yet, but neither do I despise it. How's that for a lukewarm endorsement?

FitsandStarts(K) said...

This stuff is totally invading my lawn, but I have let it take over because I found that it was easier to maintain and green and provides some flowers so why not? (I plan to get rid of most of the St. Augustine one of these days, anyway...) But I still laugh when I see this stuff for sale at local nurseries!

Bob said...

I have a mat of it at the end of a walk way. It gets walked on a bunch and you can hardly tell it. I like your idea of a lawn with it. I wanted to try a lawn of Lariope. It seems to be unstoppable and my wife weed eats it constantly. Maybe a little bristly when mowed but nice dark foilage. I say go for it.

L said...

I wish my horseherb looked as good as yours! Mine just looks straggly and weedy, or I'd be trying to make a groundcover of it, too!

As far as Austin weeds go, I do have to confess a fondness for henbit. Its little violet flowers bloom before everything else in the spring, and they cheer me up.

Cote de Texas said...

Libby - I couldn't agree more with you about Texas beaches!!!! they are great - esp. SPI - the best town too!!

ConsciousGardener said...

Great idea Libby, I have a friend who let her backyard "go" and that's what it became...a carpet of horseherb.

Hey, I've been looking for you on the Crestview tours...there is one this Sunday...are you game? Last Saturday we visited Prentiss on Aurora...thought I'd run into you!

Meredith said...

Hi, just linked here via Pam's Digging blog -- I'm glad to see your post about horseherb. I'm trying to get it to spread in many areas of my yard. I wish I could get some seeds to really let it take off! It's beautiful when it's lush. I've seen some lovely areas in northwest Austin, where I live.

leslie said...

L - try mowing your horseherb (I use a push mower) to keep it from being straggly. mowing will also help it grow more densely.

AP - good to be aware than HH does die back in drought or in winter. I sow rye seed in my largish backyard to keep the soil from eroding or turning to dust or mud until the horseherb comes back with the rains in the spring.

it's so great that folks are doing other things with their yards than laying augustine grass. yay texas natives!