Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Thursday - July 19, 2007

From: Port Ontario, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Erosion control after loss of large trees
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Our steep 40' river bank (NY near eastern shore of Lake Ontario - zone 4) has recently lost two 50' oaks, leaving enormous holes in the bank itself where they tore out. What should we do immediately to cover/fill the bank? (Top soil into the holes? Something else into the holes? Netting or branches to cover the bank on the short term?) What indigenous grasses/shrubs/trees/other would you suggest to reduce erosion and rebuild the structure of the bank ASAP? (Notes: Bank faces south. On the flat next to the top of bank are a beech and more oaks, shading the bank considerably. The water is generally slow moving on our part of the river. Base of the bank is moist, of course, but the top can get dry, especially in summer heat.)

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is very sorry for the loss of your large oaks. While we have expertise in the area of native plants, you would be well-served to employ an engineer to assist you in the erosion abatement project. Due to the nature of rivers and the dynamics of natural, river bank erosion processes, it's possible that there is really not much you can do to stop the gradual erosion on your side of the river.

Assuming your engineer tells you that it makes sense to do so, you will want to quickly stabilize the soil to prevent losing more of your bank and perhaps even the trees growing above it. Filling the hole with soil material similar to that of the bank might be the best bet. Next, you might consider using erosion-control blankets to stabilize the erosion area. The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem. You can read about a stream bank stabilization project implemented by Department of Environmental Services, Arlington, Viriginia.

Grasses are excellent plants to control erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems. Along with the grasses you can add shrubs and small trees. Ferns in the shaded areas and smaller perennial herbs will also help. The following recommendations are plants native to Oswego County, New York, and have characteristics that address your particular problem. Some of them do well in damp riparian areas and some will be more suitable to drier areas.

Grasses and Sedges

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Elymus riparius (riverbank wildrye)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Sporobolus cryptandrus (sand dropseed)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Shrubs/Trees

Asimina triloba (pawpaw)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry)

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort)

Fraxinus nigra (black ash)

Prunus serotina (black cherry)

Prunus virginiana (chokecherry)

Rhus copallinum (winged sumac)

Viburnum lentago (nannyberry)

Ferns

Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)

Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

Perennial Herbs

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood)

Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)


Andropogon gerardii

Elymus virginicus

Panicum virgatum

Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Asimina triloba

Gaultheria procumbens

Hypericum prolificum

Prunus serotina

Prunus virginiana

Rhus copallinum

Dryopteris marginalis

Osmunda cinnamomea

Polystichum acrostichoides

Cornus canadensis

Podophyllum peltatum

 

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Raised beds over lateral lines in Solgohachia AR
January 02, 2010 - I would like to build raised flower beds over my lateral lines. They would be planted with strawberries and perennials. Will this cause any problems with the absorption into the ground or not lettin...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent bank erosion in Georgia
January 20, 2009 - I NEED LIST OF PLANTS TO HELP PREVENT BANK EROSION. WE LIVE AT BOTTOM OF HILL THAT FURTHER SLOPES TO A POND. THE AREA IS SHADY AND WET FACING NORTHEAST. ANY RAIN CAUSES THE POND TO MUD UP. WE HAVE...
view the full question and answer

Establishing wildflowers on a slope in Virginia
August 18, 2012 - From Roanoke Virginia. I have a steep bank rising from one side of my driveway to woods above. Different areas vary from full sun, to half day shade. It is possible to carefully walk/stand on it, we a...
view the full question and answer

Phytoremediation using Paspalum vaginatum
February 06, 2015 - Do you know of any on-going research using Paspalum vaginatum as the prime plant (monoculture) for use in phytoremediation. Utilizing this plant in Vegetated Swales, Spreader Swales, Grassy Swales,...
view the full question and answer

Erosion controlling plants for a shady Minnesota lakeside
August 11, 2015 - I live about 50 yards from a lake and there is a steep embankment. Recently someone decided to cut the trees off the embankment and now the dirt is eroding off the embankment as well as off my back ya...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.