Last week, I was raking a deep accumulation of pine needles off of what passes for my front lawn, when I made a happy discovery. I had forgotten that I had planted a few pieces of my favorite shade-tolerant native ground cover —Chrysogonum virginianum — Green and Gold — in a shady area where “lawn” doesn’t grow. Removing the two-inch layer of pine needles revealed that, not only were those plants still there, but they had multiplied, covering an area about four times wider than their initial planting.
That’s what I love about this little native of our piedmont woodlands — its ability to quietly spread through the woods, with evergreen leaves staying low to the ground. And every spring, its bright yellow flowers brighten the forest floor like miniature suns.
This little native is tough. Once established, it is drought-tolerant. And, although I can’t find its deer resistance listed anywhere, in my yard the hoofed hogs seem to ignore it, maybe because I don’t coddle mine. Leaves and pine needles tend to bury the plants in the fall. As spring approaches, their new growth pushes up through the forest floor, mostly without my help.
I use this little ground cover to help control eroding bare spots on hills under trees, and even on the floodplain, where it gets doused occasionally by creek overflows. Wherever I’ve tried it, it has stabilized and beautified my difficult spots, spreading steadily year after year.
I started with one pot of a named variety known for its vigor: Chrysogonom virginianum ‘Eco Laquered Spider’ — so called because its new spreading growth in spring appeared spidery to the horticulturalist who named it. Other named varieties are also easily found in the nursery trade. I bought mine from a local nursery that sells many native plants.
To read more about this tough little native wildflower, try the description at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center here.
I don’t know why anyone would plant English ivy — a known invasive exotic species — when Green and Gold will cover shady ground just as easily, and even provide sunny flowers every spring.