Mat Grass: Lay Out the Welcome Mat

Posted by on Sep 26, 2012 in Uncategorized, Unmowed Blog | 2 comments

It’s amazing how homey and comforting a cheap motel in New Jersey can be.

Five hours on the Jersey turnpike, packed with traffic. The sun goes down, the traffic thickens. Eyelids heavy. Finally, I give in. Taking exit number two million and three, I follow a series of tiny signs directing me to “Lodging.” Finally rewarded by the lovely sight of the Jersey Town House motel.012

Ah. They have a vacancy. They have a soft mattress, free breakfast, hot shower, and highspeed internet, too.


And best of all, there’s a green welcome mat right in front of my door.

This is one of the plants that has more names that you can count. Mat grass. Wiregrass. Doorweed.








If you’re interested in the technicalities, it’s one of the many species of Polyganum, a huge genus of weedy plants. (See Ladies Thumb: Gloucester Marine Railway for another Polyganum cousin).

They’re known by many names—some botanists call them the jointweeds (sounds pleasantly illegal) because the stems are jointed, with little bumps, looking like the plant was put together  by a two-year old playing with tinkertoys. For the same reason, others refer to them as knotweeds, since the stems look knotted. Other books or websites call them the smartweeds, in terms of smarting like ouch! since some species have peppery leaves that can  make your tongue (if not your brain) smart.

Let’s just call it mat grass. Very descriptive. The whole plant doesn’t ascend a quarter of an inch into the air. It lays flat as the proverbial pancake on the sidewalk. That’s its survival strategy, of course—it exposes a large surface area of leaves to the sun while literally maintaining a low profile—any nibbling animal or weed-whacking gardener has to work pretty hard to scrape the mat of vegetation off the pavement.

While mat grass doesn’t help get mud off your shoes, it fulfills all the pleasanter functions of a doormat. It softens the hard pavement underfoot. Brightens the doorway. And welcomes you home.009


  1. What a nice description for something I have looked upon in the past as a nuisance weed. I like how you look at things. 🙂

    • thanks!

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