Research: Native Lawn Study Begins 2019

By Rachel Floyd, Center for Urban Habitats

Ever since a grass tapis vert (green carpet) was installed in the palace gardens of Versailles in the 18th century, manicured lawn grass has been in fashion. Americans are particularly smitten, having rolled out some 40 million acres of lawn across the continental United States, making turf grass the single largest irrigated crop in the country. This would be bad enough without even mentioning all of the herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and fossil fuels needed to keep turf grass looking good.

America, it is time for change.

What if it is possible to rip up this imported green carpet and replace it with a homegrown alternative that would serve more than our collective ego?

Elymus canadensis

At the property of The Quarry Gardens at Schuyler there are a number of test plots that will be used to test run this idea. Twelve single species test plots were established this spring, and after a full season of growth and observation, we are now ready to formulate some native seed blends for planting this fall.

The ultimate goal is to create plant community modeled seed blends that can tolerate some mowing and trampling, and will require no watering once established. Instead of constantly needing to be fed, these native lawns could provide food and shelter for countless insect species. Will they look like pristine European greenswards? Nope. But perhaps they will start a new fashion trend that can push back against all that toxic green uniformity.

Agrostis hyemalis

Eragrostis capillaris

Elymus virginicus

Dichanthelium clandestinum

Photographs by Rachel Floyd