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Stoloniferous 04-23-2009 10:09 AM

Native Plants for Disturbed Sandy New England Roadsides?

My lawn is a weedy mess that I will be turning into flower beds over the years. One particularly challenging area intrigues me: a full-sun, shallow, sandy soil that gets baked dry on top of pure sand, and (on top of this) the snow-plow puts a ten-foot-plus deep pile of snow here every year (and churns up a good deal of the soil in the process.) This is in New England, by the way.

So, it’s a desert. Or a beach! I wouldn’t risk planting shrubs in the spot, because the plow will rip them up. I do plan on trying native grasses. In addition to this, I would like to develop a seed mix of native flowers that can be spread here.

If I can come up with a good mix, then I plan to give out these seed mixes as gifts, because hey, who wouldn’t like to grow some flowers in their messy post-snowplow roadside wastelands?

So, what natives might work in such a mix? I can only think of one so far: Nuttallanthus canadensis, blue toad flax.


Gloria 04-23-2009 11:36 AM

While you are looking at grass try sand dropseed/sporobolus cryptandrus.
potentilla,gaura,evening primrose,liatris aspera,ruelliis humillis,figwort,vetch,prairie rose,wild strawberry,rudbeckia hirta...
Try looking at sandy barrens in your state. Isn't the terrace in Noah's garden planted from sandy pine barrens in your area?

mrimomma 04-23-2009 11:47 AM

If the snowplow puts piles in the area then hopefully road salt won't just kill whatever you plant.

Stoloniferous 04-23-2009 12:00 PM


Originally Posted by mrimomma (Post 17332)
If the snowplow puts piles in the area then hopefully road salt won't just kill whatever you plant.

Yes, the point of this is to find native plants that can live in the salty, sandy, dry conditions.

Stoloniferous 04-23-2009 12:01 PM


Originally Posted by Gloria (Post 17330)
While you are looking at grass try sand dropseed/sporobolus cryptandrus.
potentilla,gaura,evening primrose,liatris aspera,ruelliis humillis,figwort,vetch,prairie rose,wild strawberry,rudbeckia hirta...
Try looking at sandy barrens in your state. Isn't the terrace in Noah's garden planted from sandy pine barrens in your area?

Thanks! What is this Noah's garden of which you speak?

I wish I had time to "go look at" places for ideas. Gabe keeps me a bit close to home. :rolleyes:

Gloria 04-23-2009 12:36 PM

'Noah's Garden' by Sara Stein
There was a wonderful picture of the terrace outside her home in 'Planting Noah's Garden' best completely native community (I think pine barrens) I have ever seen. Unfortunately she died a few years ago. I do not know if her wonderful gardens have survived.

sand dropseed has a good salt tolerance rating. At 1 to 3 ft usually smaller with less water I thought it a good choice. Sporobolus airoides got a much higher salt torerance rating but is not native to your area so I do not know about hardiness that far north. Plus it gets from 3 to 6 ft tall.


Table 1. Relative percent leaf firing (a measure of injury) under increasing salinity stress. Relative leaf firing indicates the change in leaf firing relative to control plants. Higher numbers indicate more injury.

Sporobolus airoides
NPIN: Sporobolus airoides (Alkali sacaton)

Stoloniferous 04-23-2009 01:39 PM

Thanks Gloria!

Gloria 04-24-2009 12:14 PM

I live surrounded by a street and two alleys with a fire department for a neighbor. Street salt combined with sharp sand is heavy all winter long.
Barriers like a wooden fence help keep out the salt spray mix. But in front where plows sometimes leave snow, only grass grows. Along one side an open fence allows salt spray to enter, it is also shady and dry. So we grow Symphoricarpos albus/common snowberry. Considered aggressive(not invasive) this is a good trait kept in check buy the conditions. While not showy it is hardy and the bees love the all summer long covering of nectar and pollen rich tiny flowers.
I like hearing what others do to combat salt problems, so please keep us informed as you go.

Intersting information...

Hort-Pro - Salt Tolerant Plants
Wetland Plants Salt Tolerant Plant List
SULIS - Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series: U of MN.

Herbaceous Plants with Moderate Salt-Tolerance

Scientific name Common name
Aquilegia micrantha Cliff columbine
Calamagrostis acutifolia'Karl Foerster' Karl Foerster reed grass
Dianthus pulminarious'Allwood' Helen Allwood pinks
Dianthus x 'Little Boy Blue' Little Boy Blue pinks
Dianthus gratianopolitanus Spotti pinks
Lotus corniculatus Bird's foot trefoil
Machaeranthera xylorrhiza Common woody aster
Schizachyrium scoparium Little bluestem
Waldsteinia fragarioides Barren strawberry

Scientific name Common name
Artemisia schmidtiana 'Sliver Mound' Silver mound
Festuca 'Elijah Blue' Elijah Blue
Hosta spp. Hosta
Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Oro' Stella d'oro daylily
Hemerocallis fulva Tawny daylily
Helleborus orientalis Lenten rose
Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple' Palace Purple coral bells
Oenothera caespitosa Evening primrose
Sedum spectabile 'AutumnJoy' Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Sphaeralcea coccinea Prairie mallow
Yucca glauca Soapweed

CSU Cooperative Extension Tri River Area

Flowers and their salt tolerances
High to Moderate - 6 to 8 mmhos
Aquilegia micrantha - Cliff Columbine
Machaeranthera xylorrhiza - Common Woody Aster
Psilostrophe bakerii - Paperflower
Stanley pinnata - Prince's Plume - a good indication that the soil is high in selenium

Moderate Salt Tolerance - 4 to 6 mmhos
Fallugia paradoxa - Common Apache
Oenothera caespitosa - Tufted Evening Primrose
Sphaeralcea coccinea - Scarlet Globemallow
Yucca elata Soaptree - Yucca
Yucca glauca - Small Soapweed

Slightly Tolerant - 2 to 4 mmhos
Argemone species - Prickly Poppies
Calochorutus species - Mariposa Lilly
Chyrsopsis villosa - Hairy Goldenaster
Gallardia pennatifida - Cutleaf Blanketflower
Mentzelia species - Blazing Stars
Physaria australus - Twinpod
Grasses and other Ground Covers and their salt tolerances
High tolerance - 14 to 18 mmhos
Agropyron elongatum - Tall Wheatgrass
Agropyron smithii - Western Wheatgrass
Distichlis - Saltgrass
Elymus triticoides - Beardless wildrye
Lotus corniculatus = Birdsfoot trefoil - a legume
Puccinellia - alkaligrass
Sporobolus airoides - Alkali sacaton

Moderately High - 12 to 8 mmhos
Bromus marginatus - Mountain brome
Lolium perenne - Perennial ryegrass
Melilotus alba - White sweet clover
Melilotus officinalis - Yellow sweet clover
Trifolium fragiferum - Strawberry clover

Moderate - 8 to 4 mmhos
Agropyron cristatum - Crested Wheatgrass
Agropyron riparium - Streambank Wheatgrass
Agropyron trachycaulum - Slender Wheatgrass
Arrhenatherum elatium - Tall meadow oatgrass
Bromus inermis - Smooth brome
Buchloe dactyloides - Buffalograss
Dactylis glomerata - Orchardgrass
Elymus giganteus - Mammoth wildrye
Elymus junceus - Russian wildrye
Festuca arundinacea - Tall Fescue
Medicago sativa - Alfalfa
Phalaris arundinacea - Reed Canarygrass
Low salt Tolerance

Alopecurus pratensis - Meadow foxtail
Festuca rubra - Red fescue
Festuca elatior - Meadow fescue
Poa pratensis - Kentucky Bluegrass
Trifolium pratense - Red clover
Trifolium repens - White clover

Problems with sand in salt mix.
Local News | Sand on roads worse than salt, scientists say | Seattle Times Newspaper
More cities skipping the sand when salting roads

Fearless Weeder 04-24-2009 03:40 PM

Many Artemesia are introduced species. Some are on noxious weed lists.
Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound'

Aster 04-24-2009 03:43 PM

I have some native plants growing around a sandy area around my mailbox by a road that gets dumped with sand and salt every year - the plants are in year 4 and still doing well! They are: Asclepias tuberosa, Aster ericoides (but really weedy!), Opuntia fragilis, Liatris aspera, Aquilegia candensis, and Petalostemum purpureum. good luck!

Stoloniferous 04-26-2009 08:57 AM

Thanks for the ideas everyone!

Gloria, at a glance I can see some non-natives in your list, I'm afraid.

Please continue to toss around ideas. I'll be back. . .

swamp thing 04-26-2009 12:07 PM

I know you were asking about flowers and not shrubs, but you can't have a thread called, "Native Plants for Disturbed New England Roadsides" without mentioning Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina. Not a true fern but a woody shrub in the family Myricaceae. Wonderful fragrance, looks like an evergreen but it's deciduous. But who would notice under all the snow? Tough as nails, it loves salted sandy roadsides.

Comptonia peregrina

Gloria 04-27-2009 10:18 AM

Stoloniferous, that second posting has a copy and paste from the link of salt tolerant plants. I thought you might want to look at the options and pick the relevant natives out. I did not take the time to edit them out myself. Sorry about that.

Stoloniferous 04-27-2009 10:49 AM

Thanks Gloria, no problem!

Oooh, S.T., I've been looking for an excuse to grow sweet fern! :D Thanks!

Fireflies 05-18-2009 03:03 PM

Stoloniferous, you can try the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower site (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin) and search by state to come up with recommended native plants for gardens. I found this invaluable (I live in Maine).

The first thing that popped into my mind was lupines (native lupines in New England have been nearly wiped out by outcrossing with garden hybrids). They like dry, sandy soil, but I don't know if they are salt tolerant.

Butterflyweed (asclepias tuberosa) also likes dry soils, but I have so far planted four or five in my space and have two survivors -- they're difficult to transplant, so you might try purchasing seed and winter-sowing direct to soil.

You might look around for lists of "seaside" plants too -- tolerance of salt spray from the ocean would be a good indicator.

Equilibrium 05-18-2009 11:15 PM

Looking for seaside plants is a good suggestion.

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