Carbon Sponge Plant Database
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Name (Common)Name (Latin)ImageCarbon SpongeCommentsTypeSoilpHH20Annual/Perennial/BiennialCool or Warm Season?When to plantWhen bloomsHarvestZone (if P)SunlightRoot DepthPlant HeightNitrogen FixingScavengingCarbon BiomassPollinatorInvasive/PestsCompanionNot CompanionHuman Food & Other UsesLinksMore LinksComments
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This is the Carbon Sponge Plant Database started in 2018. If you have suggestions, please email info@carbonsponge.org.
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Alfalfa/ LucerneMedicago sativa
NYSCI, PWEat as a herb. Often mix with oats to suppress weed. Improve drainage.LegumeLoose6.8-7.5ResilientP Spring (can in Fall)At the early stage of flowering3-7Full sun10 ' (and lateral 5" only)2'YesYesAutotoxicitySprouts
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Black-eyed Susan/RudbeckiaRudbeckia hirta
NOT YETErosion control. Do fine in clay. Good for raingarden. Can be heavy seeders. Native to eastern US and has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb by various native North American tribes. Mycorrhizal species.Flowering plantWide-range<6.8Medium, Dry, Moist, Well drainedBearly fall or springJune-Sept4-9Sun but tolerate shade8"Yescan be if conditions are goodhttps://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/black-eyed-susan.htmlhttps://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/rudhir/all.html
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BuckwheatFagopyrum esculentum
NYSCI, PWSuppresses weeds, suppress grubs, mines phosphorus and calcium from deep in the soil, gluten free, makes sought after honey, soba noodles are buckwheatFlowering plant, Pseudo-ceralWide-rangeTolerantWell drainedASpringWarm season (not frost tolerant)Shallow depth (laterals 3-4')3'Yes YesBrussels Sprouts and Kale. Mixes well with upright flowersKashahttp://tcpermaculture.com/site/2014/02/05/permaculture-plants-buckwheat/https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g4163"The root exudates from buckwheat are specially acidic and it allows the unavailable phosphorus to be made plant available. Buckwheat has this "super power" because it does not readily form fungal associations so it has to get the phosphorus from its root system. So you almost always have more available P after a buckwheat crop." --https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv288F4TXbo
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Clover, CrimsonTrifolium incarnatum
NYSCI, PWWeed/grub suppressor, Provides good groundcover and weed control as it fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere and scavenges nitrogen from the soil; buy inoculated seed (see link to the right>>); provides nitrogen and carbon to soil.LegumeWide-range but best in sandy loamMid-rangeWell drainedA6-10Full Sun; Frost tolerant1'1-3'YesYesRye and other cereals, vetches, annual ryegrass, subclover, red clover, black medichttps://aggieclover.tamu.edu/seed_plant/
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Clover, RedTrifolium pratense
NOT YETWeed/grub suppressor, deep roots and big biomass. Aleviates compaction near surface.LegumeMoist5.5-7.5Well drained, resilientBSpring, Summer or Fall3-9Full sun2-3' (big root mass and deep for only 2" above ground)YesYesPotatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, summer savory. Do not plant with onions or garlic.http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2014/06/15/permaculture-plants-red-clover/https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Legume-Cover-Crops/Red-Clover
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Cow pea (black-eyed peas)Vigna unguiculata
NYSCI, PWGrow very quickly; quickly shade the soil to block out weeds; Hoppin' John dish popular with African slaves and served for good luck on New Year's DayLegumeWide-range5.5-6.5Low to mediumASpring (after frost)Warm season8'3'Yesoilseed radishHoppin Joe, Lobia curry
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DaikonRaphanus sativusNYSCIFukuoka wrote that the name for the wild ancestor of daikon translates as "the herb that soften’s one’s disposition". Topping its mighty roots, daikon wears a crown of broad, 2-3 foot long leaves. Quick-growing, these leaves cover up to 80% of the soil surface, keeping it weed-free and mulched over the winter.Root vegetableAerated, rich (when grown for food)5.8-6.8AC2-11Full to partial1-2'2-6"NoYesFoodWe have used daikon in our winter covercrop mix to help aerate the soil and also scavenge nutrients to prevent from leaching. The broad leaves also cover soil to protect, prevent weeds and create green mulch for spring.
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False Indigo Bush
Amorpha fruticosa
NOT YETTolerant of occasional flooding as well as poor, sandy, somewhat dry soils. It is considered weedy/invasive in some parts of northeastern an northwestern. Erosion control.Legume, ShrubWide range 5-8.5Low to medium, resilientPApril-June4 to 9Sun , Part Shade6-14'Medium (http://www.perennialsolutions.org/all-nitrogen-fixers-are-not-created-equal)No serious insect or disease problems.
Susceptible to leaf spot, powdery mildew and rust
http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=280343https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=AMFR
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Fava bean (or broad bean) Vicia faba
NOT YETBroad beans, need good levels of calcium and magnesium to grow successfully, cool and damp conditions neededLegumeWide-range4.5-8.3Well drainedAAprilFull sun to partial shade3-4'2-5'Yescarrots, lettuce, marigolds, celery, peas, potatoes, parsnip, cabbage, parsley, eggplant. beetroot, onions & garlic, kohl rabi, sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes.Ful medames, fava bean dip, faba bean pasta
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FlaxLinum usitatissimum
PWOne of the oldest cultivated cropsFlowering plantRichCoolShallowSorghumflax seed, linseed oil, textileshttps://www.americanmeadows.com/wildflower-seeds/wildflower-species/how-to-grow-flaxAs a cover crop, flax helps to mobilize phosphorus in the soil and add organic matter. A good companion seeding crop for use with small seeded grasses and legumes due to its early maturity, limited leaf area, and less extensive root system.
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Gray Alder
Alnus incana
NOT YETFast-growing and flood tolerant, good for erorsion control, Native Americans used for medicineShrub TreeWide-range 6.8-7.2Moist PMarch-May2 to 6Sun, Part Shade12-36'YesYes https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ALIN2https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ALIN2
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Groundnut
Apios americana
NOT YETPlants can be invasive once they are established and have become a weed of cultivated cranberry crops in N. AmericaHerb VineWell-drained sandy soil4.5 - 7.0MediumP
Fall through Winter
July-Sep3 to 10Shade0-1'YesYeshttps://www.pfaf.org/USER/plant.aspx?LatinName=Apios+americanahttps://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=APAM
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Honeybush
Melianthus major
NOT YETNative of South Africa, Will Grow in Southern US or milder climates; All parts of plant are poisonous if ingestedShrubP8-10Yes
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Medic, Burr or Black
Medicago lupulina
NOT YETConsidered a weed, N source, soil quality builder, weed suppressor, erosion fighter LegumeYesAntibacterial qualities and may be effective as a mild laxativehttps://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Legume-Cover-Crops/Medics#spotted
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Millet, BrowntopUrochloa ramosa
NOT YETSometimes grouped with cereal but a grass; It was introduced to the United States from India in 1915. Fast growing. Allelopathic. Prevent erosion. Accumulates lead and zinc making it an important plant for remediation of contaminated soils. GrassLate Spring, SummerAttracts birds
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Mung Bean
Vigna radiata
NYSCI, PWLegumeWide-range6.0-6.9drought tolerantASummerFull2-4'3'YesMajor pests: Helicoverpa, Pod-sucking bugs, Mirids, Bean-pod-borerDal, curry, pattieshttps://plants.usda.gov/java/charProfile?symbol=VIRA4https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/plants/field-crops-and-pastures/broadacre-field-crops/integrated-pest-management/ipm-information-by-crop/mungbeans#Cluster_caterpillar
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Mustard, Yellow (Indian)Brassica juncea or Sinapis alba
NYSCI, PWPrehistoric man chewed mustard seeds; Nematode and weed supression; Many people eat leafy greens but not root, many species. Produces large amounts of biomass containing high levels of glucosinates that break down into compounds toxic to nematodes and soil-borne disease-causing organisms. Rapid growth. Scavenging nutrients. Deep roots. BrassicaRange (but not good in sandy)6-7.5Well drainedASpring or FallSun (but can withstand some shade)Large taproot 5" long, 18" 3-5'NoYesYesYesCondiment, seeds, saladhttps://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Nonlegume-Cover-Crops/Brassicas-and-Mustards
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New Jersey tea, redrootCeanothus americanus
NOT YETIts dried leaves can be made into tea (popular during Revolutionary War). Also very adaptable. Its deep roots make already-established plants difficult to transplant.ShrubWell-drained6.8-7.2Low to mediumPFall - early WinterMar - Apr4-8>14"1-3'LowYesTeahttps://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CEAMhttps://plants.usda.gov/java/charProfile?symbol=CEAM
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OatAvena sativa
NOT YETCereal, GrainWide-range4.5 - 6MediumASpring or FallLate SpringFull Sun8"2-4'NoYesYeswind pollinated May be invasiveWinter Peas and Winter Field BeansOatmealhttps://www.canr.msu.edu/news/champion_of_cover_crops_oatshttps://www.growveg.com/plants/us-and-canada/how-to-grow-oats/
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Pigeon PeaCajanus cajan
NYSCIShrubWide-range7.5-8.5Low to mediumPPartial Sun5-6'1-12ft (Depends on cultivar)YesAttract beesmoths, cutworms, thrips, mirids, green stink bugs, caterpillars Dalhttps://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_caca27.pdf
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Rapeseed, CanolaBrassica napus
NOT YETBiological activity against plant parasitic nematodes as well as weeds. Some winter-type cultivars are able to withstand quite low temperatures.BrassicaLoamy, clay-loam, or gravel6.0-7.2MediumAFall, Winter and SpringFull Sun6"3-5'NoYes by beeshttps://plants.usda.gov/java/charProfile?symbol=BRNAhttp://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/rape_mustard.htm
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Rattlesnake masterEryngium yuccifolium
NOT YETNorth American Prairie Native; carrot family (Apiaceae)HerbWide rangeLow to mediumPJune-Sept3-8Full SunDeep tap rootNoProvides habitathttps://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ERYU
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Roundhead bush clover
Lespedeza capitata
NOT YETIt mixes well in a naturalized setting with a mix of wildflowers.HerbLoamy sand or rocky 6.5- 8DryP Jul-Sep 4 to 8Full Sun2.5 meters3-6'.YesYes (bumblees)http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/prairie/plantx/rh_bushcloverx.htmhttps://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LECA8
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Silver buffaloberry
Shepherdia argentea
NOT YETTolerates poor dry soils, drought and some floodingDeciduous shrubWide-range 7.00-8.00Low to mediumPMarch 3 to 9 Full sun to part shade 8-12'YesYesMay be subject to a heart rot disease
which can cause serious problems. There are no
known serious insect problems.
http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=302360&isprofile=0&https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=SHAR
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SorghumSorghum bicolor
PWPhytolith-occluded organic carbon plant, one of the oldest heritage grains, Eqyptians grew sorghumGrassWide-range6-7.54-6'Yesmung beans, guar, crimson clover, flax and buckwheatPopped, coffee
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Sorghum Sudan GrassSorghum drummondii
NYSCIHybrid between sorghum and sudangrass, weed/nematode control, subsoil loosner, biomass booster. Leave residue on the soil surface for weed suppression and incorporate biomass into soil. Phytolith-occluded organic carbon plant.Grass5.5-7.5ResilientAWarmCut late summer when 20-30 inches tall, leaving a 6 inch stubble.Heat tolerantFast growing5-12'YesYesBuckwheat, sesbania, sunnhemp, forage soybeans or cowpeashttp://covercrops.cals.cornell.edu/sudangrass.phphttps://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Nonlegume-Cover-Crops/Sorghum-Sudangrass
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Sunn HempCrotalaria Juncea
NYSCIFights Nematodes, biofertilizer or mutual relationship with Rhizobacteria (hence N fix)LegumeWide-range5-7.5Well drainedAEarly June (use cowpea inoculate)Tropical (but can grow in summer in US)Large, strong taproot3-9'YesNoNo
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SunflowerHelianthus
NYSCIHarvest seeds when back of the flowers turn brown, myth that they are efffective phytoremediators (remove toxins); native to US, deep taproots, suppress certain weedsFlowering plantLoose, needs depth; loamy sandy5-8Well drained, drought tolerantAWarmAfter last frost, continuous planting in summer and even late summer or early fallSummer or FallFull sun1-3'2-10'NoYesYesIt is best to not plant sunflowers more than once every three years in a given field to help minimize any potential diseases or other pest problems.Starting to be used in cover crop mixes for deeptap root, bird attractor and beauty. Oil, seedhttps://extension2.missouri.edu/g4701
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Sweet fern
Comptonia peregrina
NOT YETSweetfern does not tolerate shading
well, so removing competing vegetation is important.
ShrubSandy, acidic soils<6.8DryPMay-Aug2 to 6Part Shade1-3'YesYes (butterflies) No serious disease or insect problems.https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=cope80https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=COPE80
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SwitchgrassPanicum virgatum
NOT YETWidespread in US before settlers, plains, grows in clumps, can grow to 6' tall, sturdy and cold weather resistantGrassWide-range5 or higherResilientPJune3-10Full sun10-11'YesDense cover for wildlife, esp in winter
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Thistle, Blue Glow GlobeEchinops bannaticus
NOT YETNative, good for liver health, Canadian thistle deep and expansive root system & considered invasiveFlowering plantWide-range6.1-6.5Well drained, dry, reslientPMid to late Summer3-9Full Sun2-4'Yesbeardtongue and yarrows
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VetchVicia
NYSCI, PWCommon vetch helps with the suppression of spring weeds. Weed suppression is increased when the legume is associated with a cereal companion cropLegumeWide-range6-7MoistAEarly Springfull-partial12"4'lowYes (bumble bees)https://plants.usda.gov/java/charProfile?symbol=VISAhttp://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/cm_vetch.html
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Violet Bush CloverLespedeza violacea
NOT YETCompetition from taller and more aggressive ground vegetation is not well-tolerated.HerbDry, sandy4.1-4.3DryPJune-Julypartial sun0.5–2'Yeshttp://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/savanna/plants/violet_bushclover.htmlhttps://dnr.wi.gov/topic/EndangeredResources/Plants.asp?mode=detail&SpecCode=PDFAB27080
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Virginia springbeautyClaytonia virginica
NOT YETTolerates a variety of soils. Grows rapidly. Grown from tuber. Disappears from above ground after seed capsules ripen, but doesn't leave a gap in the garden. First Nations and colonists used them for food and they are still enjoyed by those interested in edible wild plants. (Niering) HerbRich, moist soils. Prefers high humus<6.8MoistPJan - May3-8Part shade0-1'NoYes (bumble bees)Can become weedy if conditions are too goodGrows from a tuber that is edible (its flavor being described as sweet and chestnut-like).https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CLVI3http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=j800
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Winter BarleyHordeum vulgare
NOT YETExcellent scavenger of N, more tolerant of low fertility, excellent drought tolerance, exceptional erosion control and excellent weed suppression. Thick and deep roots.Grass, cereal grainWide-range6-8.5DryACool8 or warmer6.5'2-4'YesYesProtects vegetable crops such as carrots and onions that are vulnerable to wind damage. Provide protection to fragile red clover or sweet clover seedlings. Does not compete with alfalfa.https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/ccpg_horde.pdfhttps://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Nonlegume-Cover-Crops/Barley
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Winter Peas (Austrian, field)Pisum sativum (subspecies arvense)
NYSCIVine, legumeWide-range but grow best on fertile,
light-textured, well-drained soils
5.5-7.0ASpringSummerFull2-9'YesCereal, Wheat, Rye and OatsWeedsNot peas for eatinghttps://www.growveg.com/plants/us-and-canada/how-to-grow-winter-peas/
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Winter Rye GrassLolium perenne
NYSCIThe hardiest of cereals, rye can be seeded later in fall than other cover crops and still provide considerable dry matter, an extensive soil-holding root system, significant reduction of nitrate leaching and exceptional weed suppression. Can overwinter in Northeast US. Deep and thick roots.GrassWide-range5-7Resilient ACoolFall3-5'12-18"NoYesYesCan be grown in mixtures with a legume such as hairy vetch and/or crimson clover.https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Nonlegume-Cover-Crops/Cereal-Rye
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YarrowAchillea millefolium
NOT YETNative, hearty, deadhead to make bloom more, used to treat woundsFlowering plant4.7-8PJune-OctThrough summer3-9Full sun, heat8".5-3'liatris, penstemon, and Veronica
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Trees and Shurbs
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Wax Myrtle
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Buffaloberry, Bullberryhttps://aihd.ku.edu/foods/buffaloberry.html
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Black Locusthttps://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2018/01/black-locust/
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