Friday, April 16, 2010


Lobelia purpurescens (Pratia purpurescens)
The friend who gave me this plant for my garden couldn’t understand why I wanted it. “Once you have it, you’ll never be rid of it”, she warned me.
She was quite right, but actually I’ve never really wanted to be without it.
It’s a pretty little thing, which gracefully fills in the gaps between other plants and is ornamented with a sprinkle of little white flowers for more than half the year. Its dark green leaves are backed with purple. It wanders where it pleases, hugging the ground in half-sun (or if mown), and growing a little taller in well-watered shade. Full sun is too much for it.
I doesn’t really qualify as a “groundcover” in the sense that it grows only as a rather open plant. This is not something to plant as a weed-excluder, but has the converse virtue that it co-exists happily with anything, even small plants, that you might want to plant in the middle of a whiteroot patch.
In this photo taken in Franke Scrub, it is growing very lushly in damp, shaded soil - yet it has survived happily in my garden with no supplementary watering, through the droughts of the last few years.
It is a frost hardy plant.

ON WRITING COMMENTS. I have had the occasional abusive response to this blog from lawn purists who apparently cannot believe that anyone might find a pretty native plant to be aesthetically more pleasing than an expanse of green lawn.
I am reminded of the Chinese landscape gardener who was baffled by the Western fashion for lawns, remarking that he saw them as being "of interest only to cows. "
To those who feel the urge to write abusive remarks on my own preference for native plants, can I remind you, please, that this is a personal blogsite about growing plants native to the Toowoomba region, in their own place in the world. Here, whiteroot only becomes weedy in gardens where it is given supplementary watering.
Feedback on exterminating it in favour of introduced plant species is out of place.


Ozibird said...

I've been trying to pull this out of my garden. Now I'll leave it as I know it won't smother my other plants.


Patricia Gardner said...

Good for you!
I think there are people for whom gardening is all about asserting control. For them, a plant which they didn't put there is, by definition, a bad plant. We lose a lot of very special little natives that way.

Jim said...

So what are you suggesting Patricia? That people who don't like weeds taking over their garden are somehow control freaks? Mark my words, White Root is a weed in every sense of the term. I have it in my lawn and have tried in vain to eradicate it. It has taken over large areas completely, wiping out the cooch which just can't compete with it. Yes it has a pretty little white flower and in some gardens it would be fine, but certainly not for gardens with lawns..

Patricia Gardner said...

It's all a matter of how much you like lawn, isn't it Jim? To some of us, lawn grasses can be weeds. I'm surprised to hear that whiteroot can out-compete couch, though. It doesn't work for me (and I wish it would!)

Mick said...

Hello Trish and Others,

White root invades shady areas of my lawn and does seem to have reduced the couch cover.

It does not bother me much. The area remains green through the year while the rest of the grass browns off with frost. It does not get attacked by lawn grubs and does not seem to need to be mown as regularly. It could make a suitable grass substitute.

You could reduce its vigour with some selective herbicid if it got on your goat. I am too busy with lantana and asparagus and other more troublesome weeds to worry about it.

each to their own.

Righto then

Patricia Gardner said...

Good to hear from you, Mick.
I am interested to hear that whiteroot can suppress anything at all.
With regard to lawns, there is a lot of difference in individual tastes. Some people encourage those European lawn daisies, for instance, while others poison them.
Lawn-daisy-lovers might like to have white-root in their gardens as well, to fill in those bare spots that shaded lawns can develop.
As you say, those who really like their lawns pure could easily get rid of it with the same sorts of poisons they use for clover, dandelions, and for those pesky lawn daisies.

Joan Kirton said...

I have just discovered this pretty little flower on my Gum Tree block at Pinelands. Since I have removed the African Love Grass it has taken off creating a delightful carpet under the shade of the tall Gums. I am so excited to find it here. Is it a native?

Patricia Gardner said...

Nice to hear from you, Joan.
Did I fail to mention that it was native!!?
My blog is ONLY about plants native to the basalt soils (the red and the black) in the Toowoomba region and eastern Darling Downs. So you can count on your plants being genuine, dinki-di natives!
And yes, isn't this plant a little delight?

Carol said...

I hate this plant! It's ok in the lawn or as a groundcover, but it has taken over my vege garden and I don't forgive it. Am trying to eradicate it by removing the first foot of soil in my built-up bed and replacing it with fresh new soil. I bet I miss a few tendril-like roots though and in 12 months it will be romping around my asparagus and strawberries once again. I really want to spray it out, but am told nothing will stop it. Any ideas?

Patricia Gardner said...

It's only a plant! Spraying with the right stuff will kill anything.
BUT no weed removal process is forever. It seems a bit unrealistic to expect any kind of weed to not re-invade after 12 months.
I suppose you do know the difference between a selective herbicide (sold for killing weeds in lawns without harming the grass) and a general herbicide, (which will kill everything it touches)?
You would use a general herbicide (e.g. glyphosate) on whiteroot in a vege garden, and just make sure you restrict it to the whiteroot leaves and don't kill other plants as well.
Don't expect magic. Do expect to have to repeat the process fairly often at first until the roots are weakened to the point of dying. Then you will always have do it again, every now and then, whenever needed. Just as with any other weed.
If you check the internet you will notice that the "nothing will stop it" attitude is only held by people who want to remove it from lawn without killing the grass. Mother Nature hates lawn, so is not very co-operative about killing off good plants just for the sake of growing something that looks like a carpet. Apparently only a few of the selective herbicides will actually work on whiteroot.
This is not your problem, so you can happily ignore those who tell you nothing will ever work for you.

Anonymous said...

Hey luv,s I have this in my garden and it is a nightmare. The roots become swollen, it seems to intersect with other plantings roots and them do diminish. Perhaps where u live is a factor, I'm on far north coast NSW.