En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - March 31, 2009

From: Edom, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Erosion under a Live Oak in Edom TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a large Live Oak tree in the front yard that I wouldn't part with for the world. The soil is almost solid sand underneath the tree, and in deep shade. It is on a slight slope and eroding with each rain. Is there anything that would stop the erosion and satisfy the family's need for a lawn to play on? We have tried St. Augustine, but there has been too much drought to keep it watered.

ANSWER:

You have several issues in this situation. The sand, pretty normal for East Texas, is more prone to erosion than some of the firmer limestone or clay soils. The deep shade under the live oak is going to discourage many ground covers. Oak trees have a tendency to allelopathy; that is, they emit chemical substances to inhibit the growth of competing plants beneath them. We're sorry your St. Augustine failed, but not real sorry, because it is a non-native grass that slurps water. Although it is a shade-tolerant grass, the various problems cited above were probably too much for it.

The best plants for preventing erosion are native grasses, with their fibrous roots that grab and hold the soil. Again, the shade of the tree is is not going to permit a number of grasses to flourish. There are some grasses that will tolerate shade, which we consider less than 2 hours of sun a day, but they are not turf grasses, and will not give you a lawn to play on. 

Let's consider a multi-task approach to this situation, beginning with the deepest shade under the tree. Your best bet there is a good quality shredded hardwood mulch that will protect the tree roots, and replace some of the soil lost to erosion. In fact, as the mulch decomposes, it will change the structure of the sandy soil to some extent, and over time should help with the erosion.  The mulch will also permit foot traffic and activity; some playgrounds use mulch in their traffic areas. Ranging out from there into the dappled shade near the edge of the canopy, we can recommend some grasses good in shade and some low ground covers. Again, these will not withstand a lot of foot traffic, but they won't need to be mowed, and perhaps mulch pathways can be laid down between the grasses. 

Shade Tolerant Native Grasses

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Tripsacum dactyloides (eastern gamagrass)

Groundcovers

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox)

Phlox pilosa (downy phlox)

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)

Dichondra carolinensis (Carolina ponysfoot)


Andropogon gerardii

Andropogon virginicus

Bouteloua curtipendula

Chasmanthium latifolium

Panicum virgatum

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Tripsacum dactyloides

Phlox divaricata

Phlox pilosa

Phyla nodiflora

Dichondra carolinensis

 

 

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Erosion control near creek in Kansas City, MO
July 26, 2008 - I'm looking for something to plant to help stop erosion on my property. The spot I have in mind is on a slight natural grade heading toward the creek at the back of my property. Any ideas on what t...
view the full question and answer

Clay hill with erosion problems in Reedsport OR
July 10, 2009 - We have a very steep 35-40' clay hill subject to erosion in the Oregon rainy season. How or what do we do to get some kind of vegetation/grass, etc to grow without washing away? We have had mudslides...
view the full question and answer

Difficult slope in Tarrytown NY
March 03, 2009 - I hope you can help. Is there a way to plant some native shrubs and plants on a steep slope that is filled in some areas with rock without having to tier the slope? The section is approximately 50' w...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control plantings in Washington state
September 06, 2007 - Hi, I am trying to do an eagle project that involves putting vegetation onto a hill to prevent erosion. I live in Washington state where there is plenty of rain so erosion is a big problem. We are t...
view the full question and answer

Salt tolerant plants for shade on tidal inlet in NY
August 11, 2013 - Are there any salt water tolerant grasses or forbs with deep roots that grow in shade? I live on a tidal inlet/canal on Long Island NY. The southern bank has cedars and oaks but the soil is eroding ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center