Perennial peanut ground cover

Perennial Peanut Sod and Groundcover

Characteristics:

  • Ideal for areas with little to no traffic
  • Thrives in sunny areas or partly shaded
  • Flourishes in an areas with good drainage
  • Exhibits a high degree of tolerance to Florida’s environment
  • Produces a large quantity of small yellow flowers during growing season
  • Beautiful and Environmentally friendly

History:

Rhizomal Perennial Peanut in the Urban Landscape The common name for this groundcover is Perennial peanut . The origin of this ground cover stems from tropical South America.
The perennial peanut groundcover evolved in tropical conditions and has adapted superbly to subtropical and warm climates. In the northern hemisphere, this would include locations below 32o north latitude, Florida-Georgia state line, and boasting a long, warm growing season.
Perennial peanut was first introduced in Brazil in 1936 and was found to be immune to insect, disease, or nematode pests. Since its introduction, it has not spread into natural areas or become a nuisance plant in unimproved properties. Rhizomal perennial peanut does not reproduce by seed; therefore, it can’t be spread by birds or wildlife or transported in plant material to unintended areas.
Perennial peanut has recently shown potential as an ornamental groundcover due to its high resistance to drought, nematodes, and pathogens and its nominal fertilizer needs. This means savings in watering, energy, dollars, and minimal impact to the environment. Not only is it beneficial to the environment since it requires no supplemental nitrogen , phosphorus fertilization or pest control, but it also is pleasing to the eye, is durable and edible.
Due to rapid urbanization, water has become a difficult commodity in Florida. Water management districts are promoting the implementation of year-round water restrictions and the use of drought tolerant plants, of which perennial peanut is a perfect solution. Perennial peanut has potential landscape uses as a groundcover in home landscapes, road medians, driveways and parking lot islands, golf courses, along embankments, septic tank mounds, and canal banks. Perennial peanut can also be used as a buffer to waterways prone to runoff high in Nitrogen and Phosphorus. Perennial Peanut in the Urban Landscape
In Florida, the city of Jacksonville uses perennial peanut in medians; and Tampa Bay Skyway also has a highway planting of perennial peanut growing in limerock.. In Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica, medians, lawns, hotel entryways, and roadsides are planted with perennial peanut. Although this region is in a dry forest for 10 months of the year, these perennial peanut areas remain green without having to be mowed, fertilized, or irrigated. As its name implies, perennial peanut is long-lived and doesn’t require replanting once established.

Salt Tolerance for Coastal Areas

Perennial peanut can tolerate ocean salt spray, salt drift, and short term saltwater flooding. There are several successful coastal plantings of perennial peanut in Florida.

Weed Control

Weed problems can be reduced if the site is properly prepared before planting. All existing vegetation should be killed or removed. If perennial broadleaf weeds or grasses are present before planting, apply a nonselective herbicide, such as Roundup®. Soils with known disease or nematode incidence do not negatively affect perennial peanut.

Planting Time

Perennial peanut can be successfully planted from January through March, when it is not actively growing. Unfortunately, this is also the time of limited rainfall throughout Florida. Perennial peanut can be successfully established anytime if irrigation is available, or during the summer rainy season (June – August) in Florida. Water, fertilizer, and weed control are all important inputs that can maximize plant density during the first growing season.

Mowing

Mowing is not required, but appearance will be enhanced. Mowing stimulates new vegetative shoots, making a thick canopy and encouraging flowering. Mowing at 3 to 4 inches every 3 to 4 weeks is usually adequate.

Weed control is the major management problem during establishment. Eliminating competitive weeds ensures greater survival during the dry months before the summer rainfall and allows the plants to grow and spread more rapidly. Keeping the perennial peanut canopy clear for maximum sunlight penetration is critical to proper development and speeds establishment.. Mowing should be done whenever weeds are shading the perennial peanut. Mow weeds at a level just above the foliage of the perennial peanut. Mowing has been found to be the least expensive weed control method.

UF releases ornamental peanut plants for use as lawn, groundcover

Homeowners tired of watering, fertilizing and mowing grass have a new low-maintenance lawn option — peanuts.

No, it’s not the crunchy snack. And these plants don’t produce food.

University of Florida researchers say a plant called rhizoma perennial peanut is gaining popularity as a groundcover. A distant cousin of the well-known crop, perennial peanut is already used to produce livestock forage and hay. Some types make a hardy, attractive lawn or groundcover.

To spur interest, UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has released two rhizoma perennial peanuts for ornamental use, Arblick and Ecoturf. They are formally announced in the current issue of Journal of Plant Registrations.

Both grow low to the ground and produce dense green foliage with small yellow-orange flowers, said Ann Blount, an associate professor with UF’s North Florida Research and Education Center in Marianna.

The plants were released into the public domain, so anyone may buy, sell or grow them.

Ken Quesenberry, a retired UF agronomist who’s studied the crop for years, points out that some plants marketed as perennial peanut do not grow from communal root systems, called rhizomes.

Those root systems help the plant withstand heavy foot traffic and allow them to bounce back from winter frost. Sometimes called pintoi perennial peanut, the non-rhizoma plants are suitable for South Florida but aren’t as cold-tolerant as rhizoma varieties, he said.

Researchers didn’t breed the plants—instead, they collected wild specimens in South America in the 1950s, Blount said. For decades afterward, UF agronomists Tito French and Gordon Prine studied these and other perennial peanuts as potential livestock forages and hay crops; in recent years they began providing samples to commercial sod producers.

Blount hopes the new perennial peanuts catch on, because only one forage variety is widely grown in the state. Called Florigraze, it’s produced on about 30,000 acres.

“UF made a conscious effort to broaden the genetic diversity of perennial peanut by giving these plants away,” she said.

Here’s why: If too many people grow genetically identical plants, one disease or pest could potentially destroy them all. When multiple varieties are grown, there’s less risk.

Fortunately, rhizoma perennial peanuts are tough. They require about half the water turfgrass does, and need little fertilizer—like most legumes, rhizoma perennial peanuts produce their own nitrogen.

UF is evaluating almost 40 rhizoma perennial peanuts, some of them suited to ornamental use, he said. Researchers hope to identify shade-tolerant varieties, which would expand the crop’s potential for home lawns.

Quesenberry said it’s anyone’s guess whether perennial peanut will ever rival turfgrass in popularity. But the legume will probably get attention in communities with water restrictions, he said.

Some businesses install perennial peanut lawns and many consumers are intrigued, said Jerry Stageman, an owner of Sunset Specialty Groundcover in Jacksonville. But recent economic woes have slowed sales, he said.

“People just don’t have as much money to spend right now,” said Stageman, who grows about 50 acres of ornamental perennial peanut and installs it statewide.

Greater public awareness could boost demand, said Steve Basford, a Jackson County-based grower and president of the Perennial Peanut Producers Association.

Another possibility is that perennial peanut and turfgrass could be grown together in lawns, which might reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer, said Gary Knox, a professor at UF’s North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy.

“We’re just getting started exploring the possibilities,” Knox said. “It looks like a sure winner when we come up with the right varieties.”

Explore further

Boiled peanuts pack big antioxidant punch Provided by University of Florida Citation: UF releases ornamental peanut plants for use as lawn, groundcover (2010, June 29) retrieved 1 February 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2010-06-uf-ornamental-peanut-lawn-groundcover.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Perennial Peanut

Perennial peanut, also referred to as ornamental peanut, is closely related to the common peanut (Arachis hypogaea) with which we are all familiar. However, it cannot be used to make peanut butter because no nuts are produced. Take heart, though, if edible qualities are to be considered. The yellow flowers add a nutty flavor and crunchy texture to salads and stir fries.

Perennial peanut does well in the lower regions of the South (Zones 8b to 11), extending from southeast Texas and around the coastal areas to southeast North Carolina. They are particularly well suited to the hot climate and sandy soils found in most of the region. Since their introduction in 1936, these Brazilian natives have performed admirably. Tolerance of salt spray, salt drift, and temporary flooding by salt water makes it even more suitable in areas where salt-laden breezes sweep in constantly from the Gulf of Mexico.

Perennial peanut is frequently used as an ornamental groundcover. During the summer, a thick mat about six inches high out competes most weeds and undesirable plants and adds a sprinkling of attractive, yellow flowers. In places with winter frosts, the tops get killed to the ground. However, the plants re-emerge the following spring provided the rhizomes are not frozen. If a green cover is desired during the winter months in the northern portions of its range, overseeding with annual ryegrass will achieve the desired effect.

Growing Perennial Peanut

Best performance will result if perennial peanuts are planted in full sun, but they can also grow in partial shade. They require very well-drained soil, and grow well in soil ranging from a pH of 5.0 to 7.5. The addition of organic matter can lighten heavy clay soils and improve drainage. Weed control is important during the establishment period. Afterwards, the thick mat of foliage out-competes all but the toughest and most persistent weeds.

Very little maintenance is required once perennial peanuts become established. Like other legumes, they fix their own nitrogen. Because plants need other nutrients, the addition of a fertilizer with no nitrogen, and perhaps no phosphorus since it is often plentiful in most of the region, but with potassium and magnesium, would encourage best growth. Resistance to drought, nematodes, and pathogens means that little must be spent on water or on controlling pests. No invasive tendencies have been noted, probably because no seeds are produced that can be transported by birds or other wildlife.

Perennial peanuts can be mowed every three to four weeks to a height of three to four inches, if desired. Doing so will stimulate flowering and make the groundcover even and more turflike. Edging may be necessary to keep the plants in bounds.

Propagation is by division of the rhizomes or by rooting tip cuttings while plants are actively growing.

Kinds of Peanuts

The two cultivars most frequently used for ornamental groundcovers are ‘Arblick’ and ‘Ecoturf’. Other cultivars, such as ‘Florigraze’ and ‘Arbrook’ are taller growing and are usually grown as forage crops. The hay produced is similar in quality to alfalfa. Although the protein content is a bit lower, the energy content is higher.

Other species of peanuts are grown for various purposes. In addition to Arachis glabrata and A. hypogaea, over 100 additional species and varieties are listed on the GRIN (Government Resources Information Network) website. All share some common characteristics but are different enough to be considered different species.

Other Uses for Perennial Peanut

Not only is perennial peanut an excellent groundcover for home landscapes; it is also ideal for road medians, driveways and parking lot islands. Golf courses, berms where mowing would be difficult, septic tank mounds, and canal banks are all potential candidates for these adaptable and easy-to-grow plants. They work well as a buffer to waterways to prevent runoff of nutrient laden water.

At a Glance

Scientific name: Arachis glabrata

Say: a-RAK-is GLAB-rah-tuh

Common names: Perennial peanut, ornamental peanut

Family: Fabaceae (Pea family)

Origin: South America

Zones: 8B-11

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water use zone: Low to moderate

Size: 6 inches

Soil: Well-drained; pH 5.0-7.5

Salt tolerance: Excellent

Thanks to Melody for the image of common peanut.

Perennial Peanut

Our ornamental rhizomal perennial peanut selection is a result of clients asking for a low maintenance alternative to grass for their yards and difficult sunny areas. We grow three varieties of Arachis glabrata: Ecoturf (most commonly requested), Brooksville 67 (also known as “Waxy Leaf”) and Brooksville 68 (with a more pointed leaf).

Once established Perennial sod offers true drought tolerance, no known pests, no need for supplemental nitrogen or phosphorous fertilizer and requires very little mowing. All of this in an aesthetically attractive hardy plant with green foliage and beautiful yellow-orange flowers!

Our most popular variety of ornamental peanut, Ecoturf, is used around homes, in highway medians, for erosion control and in water restricted areas amongst the many places. The only area we would not recommend ornamental peanut is in the shade. With proper care perennial peanut will stay at about 4″ in height. This is a great turf grass alternative for Tampa, Sarasota and all of central Florida. Homeowners usually find our 1 gallon pots easiest to work with. We also sell perennial peanut in sod form, typically more suitable to larger projects and commercial applications.

We only ship large quantities of Perennial Peanut direct to Wholesalers and for Commercial purchases.

Homeowner 1 gallon sizes are available for carry out at our farm in central Florida, south of Tampa. We do not ship these small quantities.

Please call us if you have any questions.

Ecoturf Perennial Peanut Compared to Golden Glory

Here are few links for more information on using Perennial Peanut:

Perennial Peanut Hay

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Groundcover Peanut Varieties: Using Peanut Plants As Groundcover

If you are tired of mowing your lawn, take heart. There is a perennial peanut plant that produces no nuts but provides a beautiful lawn alternative. Using peanut plants for groundcover fixes nitrogen in soil since they are a legume. The plant is also tolerant of shearing, salt spray and performs well in tropical, sub-tropical and warmer temperate regions. Peanut groundcover establishes quickly and has an added bonus. The pretty little yellow flowers are edible and can be used in salads.

Groundcover Peanut Varieties

The peanuts we know and love as the main ingredient in our PB and J sandwiches is an annual plant. However, it has a relative that is perennial and can be used for year around groundcover. Other groundcover peanut varieties would be the edible running types, but these will die back in winter and require replanting when temperatures warm up.

The ornamental peanut is Arachis glabrata and native to Brazil. It has many benefits besides quick establishment. This perennial peanut is useful as groundcover.

The runner peanut is the most commonly grown ground nut for peanut butter and produces 80 percent of the U.S. crop. It is known as Arachis hypogaea. There are several cultivars of this plant used in commercial peanut production. Some of the most prevalent are Southern Runner, SunOleic and Florunner. Any of these would make fun and different short-term peanut plants for ground coverage, such as that needed on recently constructed ground.

Long term sod replacement, however, would only be achieved by planting the perennial variety of peanut. The perennial peanut groundcover will last for years and bloom every summer. Some of the more popular cultivars are Florigraze, Arblick, Ecoturf and Arbrook.

Why Use Peanuts as Groundcover

Replacing lawn with peanuts as groundcover saves water. Lawns are notoriously thirsty and can be watered several times a week in summer to keep them green. While peanuts like average moisture, they can tolerate periods of drought without severely diminishing appearance or health.

The plants outcompete many of the toughest weeds and can be mowed or sheared to keep it the height you need.

The edible flowers have a nutty flavor and add punch to salads and other recipes.

Its salt tolerance is outstanding and in climates that have light freezes, the plant will die back but regrow in spring. Perennial peanut plants for ground coverage grow together quickly to form a 6-inch (15 cm.) tall mat of attractive leaves and flowers.

Although no nuts are produced, the plant does secure nitrogen and its rhizomes make it easy to start more plants if necessary.

How to Grow Peanut Plants for Groundcover

Perennial peanuts prefer light sandy soil. In areas where the soil is heavy, mix in generous amounts of compost to loosen and add some grit to increase drainage.

Plant in full sun to partial shade. It is recommended that planting occurs when dormant in winter.

Keep the plants evenly moist and mow when the height becomes a nuisance. The plants can be mowed every 3 to 4 weeks. Mow to a height of 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm.).

The plants do not need nitrogen fertilizer, as they secure their own. Use perennial peanuts on berms, paths, lawns, medians and anywhere else you desire an easy sod-less groundcover.

Perennial peanut grass is a perennial flowering evergreen ground cover that thrives in warm climates.

When we moved into our new place, my son was excited to find that there was perennial peanut grass growing. He’d seen it in use at a farm he worked on and was a big fan. It was new to me, but I’m always up for learning about a new plant.

Reasons to love Perennial Peanut Grass

  • It’s a pretty, perennial flowering ground cover.
  • It out-competes less desirable grasses and weeds.
  • It’s a nitrogen fixer.
  • Perennial Peanut is resistant to pests.
  • It can be used as forage for livestock. (My bunnies love it.)
  • The flowers are edible.
  • It shades the ground, helping to hold moisture in.
  • It’s drought tolerant.
  • It’s great for erosion control.

It makes me think about when I worked in a retail nursery many years ago. Customers would come in asking for an alternative to grass lawn in an effort to cut back on water usage and general maintenance. There were several options to offer — until they said they also wanted to use the area like they would a lawn. That made it harder.

I’ve been observing it for more than a year now, and I have to say: Perennial peanut would have been a great solution.

Related: Perennial Vegetables and Fruits: Plant Once, Harvest for Years

Evergreen groundcover

We have peanut grass (arachis glabrata) growing in several areas. A good portion of the ground in our orchard is covered with it. That’s also where our chickens range, and in spite of two dozen hens tromping on it (and nibbling on it) every day, it remains thick and lush.

Perennial peanut grass handles human foot traffic well, too. Where this evergreen ground cover is mowed, it’s nice for walking on. It’s also taken over a couple of wilder areas where we don’t mow. In those areas, it’s close to a foot high, but has prevented the aggressive weeds we have here from taking root.

(Note: There are different varieties of perennial peanut grass that may vary in height. I’m not sure what specific variety we have.)

Related: Natural Weed Killers – 11 Ways to Kill Weeds Without Poison

Of course, the biggest drawback to perennial peanut grass is the fact that it’s only an evergreen ground cover in frost-free climates.

In areas where it gets frosty but the rhizomes don’t freeze, it dies down for winter and sprouts back as the weather warms. Some people seed an annual rye grass over perennial peanut grass for green during the winter months.

Propagation of perennial peanut grass is generally done by transplanting the rhizomes. It’s easy to dig a shovel full out of the center of the peanut grass and transplant to another location. Once it takes root, it will start spreading, slowly taking over the area, creating a pretty evergreen ground cover. Just be aware that it can creep into areas where you don’t necessarily want it.

Scientific name(s)

Pinto peanut

Arachis pintoi

Strengths

  • High quality forage
  • Persistent under intensive grazing
  • Tolerant of low fertility
  • Tolerant of short periods of flooding.
  • Productive in warm, moist environment
  • Good ground cover
  • Combines well with low, dense grasses
  • Shade-tolerant

Limitations

  • High seed costs considering high seeding rate required
  • Must have good moisture for production
  • Limited growth in cool or dry conditions
  • Mostly too low for green-chop
  • Underground seed attracts rodents
  • Difficult to eradicate
  • Relatively slow establishment

Plant description

Plant: creeping perennial legume forming a dense mat, 10 to 20cm deep.

Stems: smooth, hollow, round stems to about 3mm thick, rooting down along their length.

Leaves: made up of four oval-shaped leaflets, usually 3 to 4 cm long.

Flowers: pale to lemon yellow pea-type flowers, 12 – 17 mm across, on a long tubular “stem”.

Pods: like a small peanut, produced on “pegs” mostly in the top 10cm of soil; 4,000 – 7,000 seed-in-pod/kg depending on cultivar.

Seeds: soft seed, usually sown in pod.

Pasture type and use

It forms a dense, low, leafy mat. Ideal for intensive pastures in the humid tropics and subtropics (e.g. dairy and horse pastures), and can form the base for no-till or limited-till systems with oversown ryegrass in the subtropics. It is also used as a live mulch for soil conservation and weed suppression, particularly in shaded situations such as under trees and vines.

Where it grows

Pinto peanut grows best under irrigation or in areas with an annual average rainfall in excess of 1,500 mm. Although it can survive in areas of lower rainfall, productivity is low.

Soils

It can grow on most soils providing moisture is adequate. It is best suited to moist, well-drained conditions, but can also tolerate temporary waterlogging. Soil should be of at least moderate fertility to achieve satisfactory growth. It is tolerant of the relatively high levels of manganese and aluminium sometimes found in very acid soils, but is also adapted to fairly alkaline and slightly saline soils.

Temperature

Tops killed by moderate frost, but recovers quickly with onset of moist, warmer weather.

Companion species

Grasses:

  • mat-forming: carpet grass, humidicola, signal grass, clump: guinea grass, setaria (provided they are generally maintained at less than about 30 cm tall).

Legumes: generally not grown in association with other warm season legumes.

It can provide the warm season feed component in irrigated pastures in the subtropics and upland tropics sown to ryegrass and white clover.

Sowing/planting rates as single species

Seed should be sown at about 20 kg seed-in-pod/ha for pure stands such as seed crops and horticultural use. It should be placed 2 to 5 cm deep because surface sowings result in poor germination and high seed losses to birds and rodents. Be aware that some planting equipment might crush and destroy the soft, vulnerable seed.

Sowing/planting rates in mixtures

Sowing rates of less than 10 kg seed-in-pod/ha can result in scattered patches of peanut that cattle select to the detriment of associated grasses (usually sown at 2 – 5 kg/ha). It can also be sown with other low-growing legumes such as creeping vigna, white clover and lotus.

Sowing time

It is best sown during warm weather, and when there is a reasonable likelihood of follow-up rain, usually September to March. Earlier sowings help ensure good ground cover in the first year.

Inoculation

It is highly specific, requiring special Pinto Peanut inoculum (CIAT 3101 strain).

Fertiliser

Pinto peanut does not require high levels of fertiliser in most situations, but it is advisable to use a moderate application of say 200 kg/ha of superphosphate and 50 kg/ha of muriate of potash (K Cl) when sowing into very infertile soils

Maintenance fertliser

If establishment fertiliser was required, a maintenance dressing of say 100 kg/ha of superphosphate and 25 kg/ha of muriate of potash (K Cl) every two years may be beneficial. Applications of molybdenum (Mo) as sodium molybdate at 300 g/ha or molybdenum trioxide at 150 g/ha may be necessary in 2 to 3 year-old stands on very acid soils.

Grazing/cutting

Moderately heavy grazing is necessary to maintain pinto peanut in a pasture, and taller-growing grasses should not be allowed to dominate the legume, which is extremely tolerant of low and regular defoliation. As a general guide for the growing season, it should be rotationally grazed (1 week grazing, and 3 – 4 weeks rest.)

Seed production

Special equipment is required for harvesting the seed that is produced in the top 5 – 10cm of soil. Over 1 tonne/ha of seed-in-pod is produced in a good year.

Ability to spread

The creeping stems can spread up to 2 m/year in the wet tropics and about 1 m/yr in the subtropics.

Weed potential

It is difficult to eradicate once established in a particular area.

Major pests

While white-fringed weevils and slugs eat the leaves, damage is normally minimal. Leaves can also be infested by spider mites which do not cause major damage under field conditions. Rats and mice may be attracted to the underground seed.

Major diseases

Leaf and stem diseases are rarely a problem, although some nematodes (not root knot nematode)can affect productivity.

Herbicide susceptibility

Susceptible to metsulfuron-methyl (e.g. Brushoff®, Ally®) and glufosinate (e.g. Basta®).

Animal production

Similar to that of lucerne, with 13 to 25% crude protein and 60 to 70% dry matter digestibility, depending on age of forage.

Palatability

Pinto peanut is well eaten by all classes of animals, including chickens, ducks and pigs. It is selectively grazed by cattle, particularly if animals have been exposed to the legume previously.

Production potential

Annual liveweight gains of up to 200 kg/head and over 900 kg/ha, as well as significant increases in milk production have been recorded.

Livestock disorders/toxicity

None recorded.

Cultivars

Cultivar Seed source/Information
Amarillo Australian Herbage Plant CultivarsHeritage Seeds
Bolton Southedge Seeds

Denotes that this variety is protected by Plant Breeder’s Rights Australia

Further information

Tropical Forages database (SoFT) – Pinto peanutNSW Deprtment of Primary Industries – Forage peanut Agnote DPI-309Tropical Grasslands Society of Australia

Author and date

Bruce G. Cook

August 2007

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