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Starry, Starry Lawns

by | Mar 28, 2019 | Green & Growing

There was time, before chemical lawn treatments became the norm, when lawns throughout North Carolina were decorated with white to dark blue flowers. They belong to the Spring star flower, ipheion uniflorum. Our predecessors planted these small bulbs in their lawns in full to part sun, where they happily multiplied. Their delicate, six petaled flowers grow on 6” stems amid a grass-like, mounding foliage that blends perfectly into a spring lawn. You can see examples of this practice in abandoned home lots that still have their lawns in uptown Charlotte. Besides naturalized in lawns, Spring star flower is striking in drifts or other masses, as you can see in this seeming path at Historic Rosedale Plantation, defined by a mass of Spring star flower.

Star flower dusted lawns are increasingly rare, however. They have been eliminated by our passion for monoculture lawns. The same application of broadleaf weed killer that cleanses our lawns of dock and dandelion also kills Spring star flower. Zealous early spring mowing, which is really a necessity for lawns that have been carefully fertilized by a typical lawn maintenance program, also mow down these little beauties.

Several years ago, I experimented with starting what I thought was the same flower as Spring Star flower passing under a different name in my lawn. Fortunately, I was corrected—Spring star flower is not the same as Star of Bethlehem flower. Although neither Star of Bethlehem flower nor Spring star flower are native to North America, Star of Bethlehem can be noxiously invasive, whereas Spring star flower is not.  By all accounts, Star of Bethlehem should never be planted in lawns or even beds with other flowers.  Keep it in pots.

Tom Watson

Tom Watson is a Volunteer Extension Master Gardener in Mecklenburg County. He has also received a Certificate in Native Plants from UNC-C and a Certificate in Horticulture Technology--Residential Landscape Design from CPCC. He and his wife, Sue Bartlett, own The Cedars Davidson Bed & Breakfast.

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