Plant Answers  >  Horseherb or Straggler Daisy

Horseherb or Straggler Daisy


Calyptocarpus vialis


Calyptocarpus vialis Less.

Straggler daisy, Horseherb, Hierba del caballo, Prostrate Lawnflower, creeping Cinderella-weed

Asteraceae (Aster Family)

Depending on your point of view, Straggler Daisy or Horseherb is a pest or a welcome, shade-tolerant groundcover that tolerates moderate foot traffic. If you have a shady lawn anywhere within its range, you probably already have it. It gained in popularity during the growth in interest in native plants and is now occasionally available for sale at native plant nurseries (though it is so easy to propagate that you can easily grow it on your own). Thriving in sun or shade, its tiny, yellow daisy flowers add a minute touch of color to shady areas and attract small butterflies like sulfurs and skippers.

Because it is dormant in cold winters, mix with cool-season spring annuals and evergreens for continuous color. In central Texas, Baby Blue-eyes (Nemophila phacelioides), Widows Tears (Commelina spp.), False Dayflower (Tinantia anomala), Violet Ruellia (Ruellia nudiflora), and sedges (Carex spp.) are good companion plants for shady areas.



Horseherb & Dogface butterfly

Horseherb & Painted Lady butterfly

Horseherb & Texan Crescentspot butterfly

Horseherb & Variegated Fritillary butterfly


Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb, Forb
Leaf Retention: Semi-evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: 6-12 inches high
Leaf: medium green
Size Class: 0-1 foot



Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov
Bloom Notes: Will bloom year-round in frost-free regions.



Distribution

USA: AL , AR , AZ , FL , GA , HI , LA , NM , TX
Native Distribution: Native to eastern Mexico and south to south-central Texas. Non-native elsewhere in Texas and USA.
Native Habitat: Woodlands, fields, meadows, often in disturbed soils



Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low, Medium
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Drought Tolerance: High
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained sand, loam, clay, caliche, calcareous preferred
Conditions Comments: It is evergreen in areas with mild or no winter, deciduous in areas with cold winters. Sometimes struggles with heavy fallen tree leaves that don’t decompose quickly.



Benefit

Use Ornamental: A good shade groundcover with small, yellow daisy flowers. Also does well in full sun.

Use Wildlife: Attracts small butterflies and especially the Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia) which is a North and South American butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. It is sometimes also called the Sunflower Patch. Straggler Daisy, Calyptocarpus vialis, is a host plant for the Bordered Patch butterfly. See:
http://the-grackle.blogspot.com/2010/07/plants-straggler-daisy.html
Edible: The City of Austin's Native and Adapted Landscape Plants says that is "somewhat deer resistant", which might indicate that it isn't very tasty—at least not to deer. You probably wouldn't get violently ill if you tried some (if it were deadly poisonous, I feel sure it would appear in at least one of those toxic databases), but you could possibly have some unpleasant reaction to it.

Interesting Foliage: yes

Nectar Source: yes



Propagation

Propagation Material: Root Division, Seeds

Description: Easily propagated by cuttings or divisions. Though this species may be propagated by seed, it is rarely done because the seeds are difficult to collect in quantity. Seeds are rarely if ever commercially available.

HOW TO EASILY “SEED” AN AREA: Simply find a fast growing, blooming stand of Horseherb and mow it periodically using a lawnmower with a grass catcher attachment. Then thinly spread the Horseherb catchings (clippings) onto the area to be planted. Let the clippings dry for a few days then water or let the next rainfall germinate the very small seed which were collected during mowing. Horseherb will establish itself in stony, shady areas where grass will not grow well. NOTE: Horseherb DOES NOT kill or crowd out grasses; the grass thins or dies and the Horseherb covers the bare spots!

Plants Commercially Available: yes but rarely

Maintenance: Mow if desired to keep even and to clear away dead growth in areas where it goes dormant in the winter. It may need supplemental water to look its best in hot, full sun areas during extended drought.

Information from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and on the web at:
http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CAVI2
And Bib ref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski





Horseherb, All Star Plant?

Horseherb (Calyptecarpus vialis) is not as showy as most of the blooming plants we describe in the “What’s Blooming Now” feature but despite its plain appearance horseherb deserves recognition for the important role it plays in many landscapes. My colleague on Milberger’s Gardening South Texas, Dr. Jerry Parsons went so far a few years ago to explore horseherb as a commercial groundcover. He collected the tiny seed and had test beds planted all over the area. Horseherb transplants do appear occasionally on the retail nursery market but is probably not destined for a major commercial role because despite its valuable characteristics, they are only provided on the plants own terms. Horseherb is hard to manage, it selects you and your yard, rather than being selected by the gardener.

Also called straggler daisy, horse herb is a low growing plant with dime-size heart-shaped leaves with tiny yellow flowers. Right now it is common in thin lawns on shallow soils in sun or shade. It grows so thick in its favorite habitats that the lawn can look like it has been overseeded. In fact, one of its all-star worthy values is that it makes an excellent groundcover. Combined with rescue grass and/ or annual bluegrass it is a sustainable winter turf for lawns that are thin due to shallow soil or shade. Mow the sustainable winter lawn every two weeks and it can look better than the regular summer lawn on such soils.

Horseherb is a reseeding perennial. I came reluctantly into the horseherb appreciator camp after years of unsuccessfully trying to control it with pre-emergent and contact herbicides. The plant seems indestructible, but again, on its own terms. Horseherb is sensitive to dry weather. Don’t get me wrong, it survives dry weather but it disappears during dry weather. Just when you are inclined to do without St Augustine or Bermuda grass in favor of horseherb, we have 4 weeks of drought and the ground is bare where it used to be lush with horseherb! When the rains start it will come back but until then the soil is bare.

There are also several other desirable horseherb characteristics to consider. The plant is a favorite browse for deer and it provides nectar to butterflies.

Wildlife biologists tell us over and over that deer are browsers, not grazers. A very small portion of their food is supplied by grass. They require the foliage and stems of broadleaf plants for nutrition. That pronouncement is questioned quite often in neighborhoods like mine where deer move across lawns feeding like cattle. Look close, however and the lawn component they are eating is the broadleaf weed, horseherb. As long as the soil is moist, the horseherb can provide enough browse to keep the deer healthy and happy.

Last year was a spectacular year for butterflies. Rainfall was generous and well-spaced so there was nectar producing blooms all year. One of those nectar sources was horseherb. If you lived in a neighborhood with horseherb, visits to the lawn area by butterflies, especially black swallowtails, was very noticeable. Next to the browsing groups of deer were numerous black swallowtails and other butterflies.



Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis) seedlings four days after rain.

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis) seedlings four days after rain.

Horseherb

Horseherb

Horseherb

Horseherb

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Horseherb Lawn

Horseherb Lawn

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Horseherb

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Horseherb Closeup

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis) Seed size compared to dime.
 


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