By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
The old song “Pennies from Heaven” was originally sung by Bing Crosby, notable crooner, actor, and co-star with Bob Hope in many On The Road To (you pick the exotic location) films.
This song intones the melancholy wished of many depression era Americans.
After all, who could object to money falling from the sky on those long ago hard workers who were short of funds?
Free money is free money, even if it must be picked up.
There are some who have expressed concern that the small-change raining down 80 years ago has come back to haunt contemporary home owners in Wakulla County, and elsewhere, by sprouting.
Inflation being what it is, the germinating pennies have turned into dollarweeds.
In this case, reality is quite different than the romantic tunes from the early 20th Century.
Dollarweed, though, is quite real and common across the region.
Hydrocotyle umbellata, the scientific name for dollarweed, is the specie within this larger genus found locally.
There are about 100 members of this genus worldwide which are found in tropical and temperate zones.
Other archaic common names applied to this plant include pennywort, marsh penny and water pennywort.
Each term reflects the perspective of someone who has encountered this plant, either in the wild or a manicured landscape.
The term “wort” is a derivative of the Old English word wyrt, which means plant.
It is not to be confused with wart, a skin eruption caused by a virus.
Dollarweed is a native perennial which is found in damp to very wet sites.
This low growing plant produces erect, bright green, shiny leaves with scalloped margins.
The petiole, or leaf stem, is located in the center of the leaf which forms an umbrella shape.
Leaves range in size from a dime to a silver dollar.
Another native plant, dicondra, is confused with dollarweed.
Both are about the same size and are found in similar growing environments.
With dicondra, the stem attaches to the leaf on the leaf’s outer margin. Also, dicondra leaf edges do not have the scalloped texture of dollarweed.
Dollarweed can be found growing on pond or stream edges where it delivers several beneficial features.
In thick clusters, its sinewy root system stabilizes shorelines by producing a thick mat capable of minimizing erosion.
It also produces copious quantities of seed for birds on its tiny flowers.
Fish benefit from the thick water seeking roots which produce a protective maze next to the water’s edge where an assortment of aquatic creature reside.
This plant is even found between sand dunes in coastal zones.
In recent years, several cultivars of this plant have been utilized in formal horticultural applications.
The problem with this plant is it likes almost any damp soil environment, which includes frequently watered lawns.
It has been the bane of more than one homeowner who is striving for the perfect lawn.
Monitoring and restricting moisture levels are the first steps to controlling dollarweed.
There are herbicides which will control, but not eradicate, this plant.
If the lawn remains damp, it will take a lot more than pennies from heaven to rein in this native plant.