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Tuesday - June 17, 2008

From: Newport News, VA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants to stop erosion on land near lake
Answered by: Nan Hampton


My back yard runs down to the lake. The water is eroding my land. I want plants & flowers [full sun]that can be planted to stop the erosion and add color. Another question: We have a huge oak tree in our front yard. We have had the hardest time getting grass to grow around that area. What do you suggest? We live in Newport News, VA.


Grasses are going to be the most effective plants to stop the erosion. Their fibrous root systems are excellent for holding the soil in place. After the grasses have stabilized the erosion, you can add wildflowers and shrubs, if you like. Here are some grasses and sedges that should do well in your lawn to stop the erosion.

Andropogon glomeratus (bushy bluestem) grows well in moist areas in full sun and is attractive when green and after it has matured

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) grows well in sun and grows only to about 12 inches without mowing

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly)

Muhlenbergia cuspidata (plains muhly)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex stipata (owlfruit sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Rhynchospora colorata (starrush whitetop) will do well next to the shoreline in the wettest soil

I think it is the constant shade that is affecting the growth of grasses under your oak tree. Some tree species can inhibit the growth of plants beneath them by chemicals released from leaves, roots and fallen debris (e.g., Juglans nigra, black walnut), a process called allelopathy. You can read about the "Potential Allelopathy in Different Tree Species". You don't say which oak you have, but several of oaks on that list in the "Strongest Effect" category do occur in Virginia (Quercus falcata (southern red oak), Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak), Quercus rubra (northern red oak), and Quercus stellata (post oak)). If your oak is one of these species, you can help your situation by keeping the oak leaf, twig, and acorn litter raked from under the tree. Also, you should try grasses that do well in the shade. Here are a few suggestions, some of which are recommended for stopping erosion above:

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Andropogon glomeratus

Bouteloua dactyloides

Elymus canadensis

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Muhlenbergia cuspidata

Schizachyrium scoparium

Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Carex stipata

Carex texensis

Rhynchospora colorata

Bouteloua curtipendula

Chasmanthium latifolium




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