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
2 ratings

Wednesday - July 01, 2009

From: Merrill, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Seeds and Seeding, Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants for steep embankment on the Missouri River in Nebraska
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi, My embankment along the Northeast Nebraska shoreline of the Missouri River is eroding the land away. Do you have any suggestions for seed I could throw over the side of the bank that would grow and perhaps slow the erosion or stop it? It is too steep to walk on. Thanks.

ANSWER:

We recommend grasses for controlling erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems that serve to hold the soil in place.  However, I don't think just throwing grass seeds over the side of your bank is going to work very well.  The seeds need moisture to germinate.  If the moisture comes in the form of rain, it is likely to wash the seeds down the bank into the river before that have a chance to germinate and take root.  There are two possible solutions—an erosion control blanket or pneumatic compost/seed application.  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 also 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.  Many nurseries carry this erosion control fabric. 

The compost/seed application may be a bit more complicated and expensive than you had in mind since it does require a pneumatic blower, or some mechanical means, to spread the compost/seed mix. The US Composting Council offers information about suppliers of compost and compost technology, but I don't really know if this could be a do-it-yourself project.  You might check with a landscaping or environmental consulting company in your area who might have the machinery to do this to learn about the feasability and expense of applying the compost/seed mixture this way. You can find the names of Landscape Professionals and Environmental Consultants in your area that specialize in native plants by searching in our National Suppliers Directory.

Here are some grasses that should work on your bank.  However, since I don't know the specifics of how much sun/shade or the exact soil type you have there, you will need to compare those aspects of your site with the GROWING CONDITIONS given for each grass.

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem)

Aristida purpurea (purple threeawn) is good for erosion control on banks.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) grows on moist bluffs and stream banks.

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Tripsacum dactyloides (eastern gamagrass)

You can find more grasses to consider by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database and choosing 'Iowa' from the Select State or Province category and 'Grass/Grass-like' from the Habit (general appearance) category.  You can also make choices from the Light requirement and Soil moisture categories.


Andropogon virginicus

Aristida purpurea

Chasmanthium latifolium

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Panicum virgatum

Sorghastrum nutans

Tripsacum dactyloides

 

 

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
August 28, 2012 - My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area...
view the full question and answer

Plants for controlling erosion on a cleared slope in Ohio
April 29, 2009 - I live in Cincinnati, OH. BP owns a pipeline which runs thru part of my property. They clear out all the large trees every few years, so that it is visible from the air. Our area is surrounded by M...
view the full question and answer

How to stabilize a slope under Red Oaks?
March 19, 2013 - A portion our front "yard" (20x40 feet) is a limestone hillside shaded by 3 large spanish oaks. The small amount of grass holding onto the hillside is now gone from the drought, and the hill has er...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen native plants for slope in South Carolina
July 14, 2008 - We would like to plant an evergreen garden in our backyard, which is on a slope. It receives the sun from approx 9-4. We have an above ground pool, and patio area. Would also like a recommendation of ...
view the full question and answer

Use of native grasses as erosion control in Austin, TX
June 20, 2006 - We're in Austin, TX and trying to keep our neighborhood lot as natural as possible; however, our lot is eroding and depositing mud and dirt onto the sidewalk whenever it rains. We're looking for an ...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center