Herbs for Shade Lane in a Carolinian Forest
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Patricia Fell
Posted on: January 18, 2005

Thank you in advance for taking the time to help me out with this problem. We own two acres of Carolinian forest on Pelee Island which, to date, has only been developed with respect to putting in an access driveway. This land was deemed ANSI by the Ministry of Natural Resources and is considered delicate. We are only allowed to build on the first 165’ of the property due to endangered habitat. At the (approximately) 150’ to 165’ point of the property there exists what remains of a lane from the original farmhouse to the ice house. This laneway is the only area of the property which is cleared and grassy, and hence quickly became adopted as our camp area.

Here is the problem: looking forward to the day when we will be able to afford to build our dream hut, we had a grey water treatment lagoon dug at the same time our driveway was put in. In an effort to alleviate some of the flooding we get in the spring, (the property is at the back of the Stone Road Alvar Conservation Area and acts as the watershed for the eastern side of the island) we asked our contractors to grade the lagoon fill over the laneway area. Now, if you are familiar with island mentality at all, you will understand that the driveway we expected to be in by the May 24th weekend was not completed until August 29th, and the fill was graded at the end of November. The ferry stopped running for the season, and I was unable to seed the laneway area -- I look forward to one great big clay swamp this spring!. And it would now appear that friends of ours want to get married on our property at the end of June. Can you suggest a groundcover for the laneway which: -will not become an invader species in the delicate ANSI forest, -does not require mowing, -will grow quickly and thickly, -can handle extreme wetness in the spring and drought -conditions later in the year, -likes clay soil, -can tolerate shade (sometimes dense shade), & will handle hard wear by campers, dogs, etc.?

P.S. It must also be able to grow alongside poison ivy vines up to 3" in diameter (no joke, it is some freak thing that only happens on Pelee).

This is an awfully tall order -- to find a plant that can be sown, will thrive in the conditions you mention, and will be ready by the end of June. Honestly, I don’t think that there is any herb that will give you want you want. I don’t know of any non-herb that will work either.

Possible long shots among herbs that we sell are:

1. yarrow (the white variety, Achillea millefolium), but it will need mowing a few times a year

2. roman chamomile, but it probably won’t handle the foot traffic well if combined with shade and drought

3. wild thyme, but if the site is too shaded then it will not do well

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