Alternative Lawns – Ground Cover Species

picture of chickweed
Mature chickweed plant

Chickweed Stellaria media

(non-native but naturalized throughout the US)

Overview: Non-native, low growing cover plant.

Landscaping: Low growing, annual that readily colonizes bare ground in lawn, garden beds, and other areas. Grows best in full to partial sun in moist, fertile soils, but can grow in a variety of areas.

Time to forage: Spring into Summer.

Identification: Low growing plant that spreads along the ground; leaves are oval shaped and opposite of one another; stems are succulent and have a line of “hair” that grows along them; flowers are white with five, double-lobed petals that are supported by five green sepals.

Where to find it: found in a variety of habitats from woodland areas to lawns, gardens, and areas with a history of disturbance.

Edible parts of plant: leaves, stems, flowers – chickweed can be eaten raw like sprouts or cooked; often compared to spinach.

Tips for foraging: There is not shortage of chickweed available, harvest as much as you will use!

Ethnobotany: Used for medicinal purposes by the Chippewa and Iroquois, additionally used as chicken feed by the Iroquois.

Importance to natural resources: non-native but naturalized throughout the United States, often fills areas that would otherwise be bare ground, serve as cover for small invertebrates and flowers are used by pollinators.

Nutritional value: high in vitamins C, A, and B.

Recipes: Can be used as a substitute for spinach; tossed in salads or cooked in various dishes.

Additional References:

Wild Edible
North Carolina Extension and Outreach
Native American Ethnobotany

Seed Sources: 

Strickly Medicinal Seeds