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My neighbor's landscaper planted this groundcover (in southern California) which she told me was a thyme. It spreads like wildfire and has a tiny white flower with a raised purple center, but it neither looks nor smells like any thyme I have ever seen. Any idea what it actually is? It is evergreen, with jagged edged leaves roughly half an inch long. [groundcover leaf with jagged edges

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This is Phyla nodiflora, also sometimes called Lippia repens, and apparently lots of other names (matchweed, etc...). According to Native Florida Wildflowers website, it is a Florida native. No it isn't really thyme as we know it, although maybe one of its nicknames could be "thyme". Wikipedia puts it in the verbena family.

I have it in my lawn (Northern Calif.), and yes it does spread well. As you say, like wildfire, or if you prefer, it is invasive. It seems to propagate mostly by creepers that root into the ground if undisturbed for a while. In the middle of the grass it keeps low to the ground and makes the grass look a little lusher and greener, but around the edges where there is less competition it can get tallish and rangy looking, less like a ground cover and more like a scrubby weed. That said, it is pretty easy to pull out in places you don't want it. (Not sure how easy it is to completely eradicate if you decide you hate it). Once established it doesn't seem to need a lot of water to survive, but looks nicer if it gets some.

Also please note in the spring/summer (at least in my climate), it is absolutely covered with those little white flowers which attract bees like crazy! (FYI...if you happen to have serious bee-sting allergies in your family, you might want to avoid it.)

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  • Do you have cool season grasses for lawns? This is a succulent that stores water. Ugh. Otherwise it would be easy to 'suppress'. short root systems. I'd get my lawn cut at least 3 1/2 inches no shorter. That should shade this plant enough to dissuade it from making your lawn its home? Maybe? Watering deep deep deeply when your grass needs water will cause that stuff to get root rot. I got stung by bald faced hornets...attacked, actually. The doc pulled out 47 stingers still pumping away. That put me in anaphylactic shock. Duh. Getting stung a few times later was no prob – stormy May 22 '18 at 21:53
  • Oh, no Stormy, I put it in my grass on purpose because I think it is nice. My front grass is primarily Bermuda, and this stuff (matchweed) can live amongst the other grasses and make everything look green and alive. I was hoping it would eventually crowd out the Bermuda, which I thought I saw it doing in the place I brought it over from, but it's been like 6-10 years, and Bermuda is still there (that's the "Ugh" part). ...Succulent? Ronke's photo makes it look like one, and it may technically even be one, but its little leaves just look like regular leaves down in the grass. – Lorel C. May 23 '18 at 3:02
  • Warm season grasses, not cool season. I was thinking how to manage a plant out of place like this, not at all saying this is UGH other than it would be lots of work. It is pretty. Warm season grasses and this plant should do real well together! Bermuda is a weed. I would like to see the two growing together from a few feet away. – stormy May 23 '18 at 6:22

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