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Tuesday - February 03, 2009

From: Bowie, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Native plants to prevent erosion in Maryland
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Please can you recommend native plants for a north-facing slope, under pine trees? I live in Maryland near the border between the Coastal Plain and Piedmont Plateau, where we have cold to mild Winters and hot, humid Summers, but also frequently have drought conditions. I want to put in native plants to hold this north slope and prevent erosion under the pine trees, but want plants that don't require me watering them once they're established. Attractive/interesting bloom is not essential.


The best plants for your condition are native grasses, especially since you specified that interesting blooms was not an issue. Grasses have fibrous roots, and grab and hold the soil. They do it for selfish reasons, of course, so they will have dirt to live in and perpetuate themselves but you get the advantages also. You are probably already aware that it is difficult to grow much under pine trees, because of their heavy shade and the blanket of needles beneath them. They also, over time, will cause more acidity in the soil. So, we'll check for acid and shade tolerance of the grasses we choose as examples. To find these grasses, we'll go to our Native Plant Database, go down to COMBINATION SEARCH, select Maryland on the drop-down menu, then  select "grasses" under Habit and shade to part shade on Light Requirements, then click on "Submit combination search." We will then follow the plant link to each plant's page and check on the acidity or alkalinity of the soil preferred by each grass. You can do the same thing, adding in such specifications as Soil Moisture. We are going to leave the Duration blank, so the database will select both annual and perennial grasses.

These plants, either as plugs or seeds, are all commercially available. If you have difficulty locating them, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type your town and state into the "Enter Search Location" box and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and landscape and environmental consultants in your general area.


Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) - perennial, 4 to 8 ft. tall, moderately acid and saline tolerant

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem) - perennial, 2 to 5 ft. tall

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - perennial, 2 to 3 ft. tall

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama) - perennial, 10 to 18 inches tall

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge) - perennial, 1 to 3 ft. tall

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) - perennial, 10 to 12 inches tall

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - perennial, 2 to 4 ft. tall

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) - cool-season perennial, 2 to 4 ft. tall

Melica nitens (threeflower melicgrass) - perennial, 3 to 5 ft. tall

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill) - perennial, 1 to 3 ft. tall

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - perennial, 1 to 3 ft. tall

Tripsacum dactyloides (eastern gamagrass) - perennial, 2 to 3 ft. tall

Andropogon gerardii

Andropogon virginicus

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua hirsuta

Carex blanda

Carex texensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Melica nitens

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Schizachyrium scoparium

Tripsacum dactyloides






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