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Extended flowering and high weed resistance within two layer designed perennial “prairie-meadow” vegetation

Hitchmough, James, Wagner, Markus, Ahmad, Hanim
Urban forestry & urban greening 2017 v.27 pp. 117-126
biomass, canopy, flowering, forbs, herbaceous plants, interspecific competition, landscapes, models, plant communities, spring, urban areas, weeds, winter, woodlands, Europe, North America
Interactions between two canopy layers in a designed perennial herbaceous plant community were investigated over a period of four and a half years to see whether it was possible to create an urban landscape vegetation that was both flower rich for an extensive time period and resistant to weed colonization at very low levels of maintenance by sowing seed in situ. The ecologically novel plant community involved a tall over-canopy layer of 18 species of North American prairie and woodland edge forbs, and a shade tolerant under-canopy of eight European and North American, mainly woodland forbs. After 5 years the community was dominated by four over-canopy and two winter green under-canopy species. Interspecific competition generated by the sown biomass restricted weed colonization to very low levels, despite the experiment being surrounded by a weedy brownfield. The winter green canopies of the two dominant under-storey forbs closed down gaps within a winter deciduous, prairie-like vegetation, improving winter appearance and providing a major flowering display in spring. This vegetation is an attractive design model for more sustainable herbaceous planting in urban landscape space.