Solar radiation intensity influences extensive green roof plant communities.
Two studies were conducted on a third-story rooftop to quantify the effect of solar radiation (full sun versus full shade) on several US native and non-native species for potential use on extensive green roofs. In the first study, plugs of six native and three non-native species were planted in May 2005 on substrates of two different depths (8.0 and 12.0 cm) both in sun and shade. Absolute cover (AC) was recorded using a point-frame transect during the growing season beginning in June 2005 and every 2 weeks thereafter for a period of 4 years. By week 174 (23 September 2008), most species exhibited different AC within a depth between sun and shade. However, when all species were combined, overall AC did not differ between sun and shade within a depth. This indicated that while species make-up was changing among solar radiation levels, that overall coverage was not significantly different between sun and shade. For all substrate depths and solar levels, the most abundant species were Sedum acre, Allium cernuum, Sedum album 'Coral Carpet', and Talinum calycinum. Less abundant species included Talinum parviflorum, Carex flacca, Sedum stenopetalum, and Sedum divergens, which all exhibited 0 or near 0 AC regardless of depth or solar radiation levels. With the exception of T. calycinum, native species were less abundant than non-native species. In the second study, six common extensive green roof species of Sedum established from seed in May 2005 on a 10.0 cm (3.9 in) substrate depth were compared in both sun and shade over four growing seasons. AC was evaluated as in the previous study. Solar radiation did not affect AC, but overall species composition differed between sun and shade levels. The most abundant species in full sun were S. acre (0.57 AC) and S. album 'Coral Carpet' (0.51 AC). Sedum kamtschaticum (0.57 AC) and Sedum spurium 'Coccineum' (0.35 AC) performed the best in the shade. For both solar levels, the least abundant species at week 174 were Sedum pulchellum (0.0 AC) and S. album 'Coral Carpet' (0.1 AC).