Planting Grasses under a Black Walnut

Question: I have a large black walnut tree in my front yard.  I was wondering if you could tell me what grasses would be able to tolerate the affects of juglone.  I live on the south end of Blaine and have the typical sandy soil of the sand plain.  The yard has both sun and shade.

Answer: As far as I know and have experienced, all the grasses are ok with juglone, the chemical from black walnut trees. Many monocots and the whole grass family seem to be immune to juglone, so I think you can try most any grass. A black walnut tree does not have much shade, that is a plus as well. Now you just have to deal with the tree root competition and dry site!! So I would try the drought tolerant grasses, such as blue grama, sideoats grama, little bluestem or prairie dropseed.

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Red fall color on Blue HeavenTM little bluestem with prairie dropseed in the foreground.

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Little bluestem Fall Color

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Blue Heaven TM little bluestem (red in foreground) at the Arboretum entry plaza.
New little bluestem below show great fall color and form.
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Fall Color

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Mt Washington’ has amazing fall color this year.  IMG_2244

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Bringing Up the Edge

Steel edging in the grass beds gets buried over time; more than 40 years have passed since the edging was placed. Only with dedicated volunteers and staff could we figure out how to resurrect this important part of maintaining the collection. IMG_1463
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Showy miscanthus

The flowers on miscanthus at the 2015 Grass Collection Open House stole the show and
got the most flags for favorites from the public. IMG_1901

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Sweetgrass Repels Mosquitoes

New information about the chemicals (coumarin and phytol) in sweet grass, Hierochloa odorata, confirm that they may repel mosquitoes. Native Americans knew this all along and have used sweet grass for many ceremonies.  Sweetgrass is a native plant in Minnesota; flowers come in early spring and the shiny foliage is not really ornamental, but that doesn’t matter, when the fragrance and other chemicals in the foliage are what is important. Photos from the Minesota Landscape Arboretum’s Grass Collection.  hierochloe sweet grass braids IMG_2197

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Grass Collection Open House, Tuesday, Sept 29, 2015, 2:00-6:00 PM

Join us for the Open House at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Grass Collection on Tuesday, September 29 from 2:00-6:00 PM. You will be able to see the new plantings from this year, pick your favorite grass, and ask questions about the grasses. 2015 is the third and final year of the formal 3-year evaluations of 17 switchgrass and 5 little bluestem cultivars. IMG_0965

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