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 Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Replacement for non-native maiden grasses from Fredericksburg TX
May 25, 2013 - I am trying to replace some maiden grasses that died during the drought. I want an evergreen grass or something soft looking to replace them. I want something that is native and 5 to 6 feet tall to ...
view the full question and answer

Care for non-native Centipede grass
February 27, 2013 - My lawn is Centipede. I have created a new lawn area. Can and when should I seed/overseed my lawn? I have Rye in the new area.
view the full question and answer

Hillside Erosion Control for Gainesville GA
August 07, 2013 - I have a steep bare hill and the runoff from it is heavy this year. I need help with a fast growing groundcover that will help control erosion and runoff. Planting on the hill is difficult because you...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for area under pecan tree in Tennessee
March 26, 2009 - I have two big pecan trees in my yard and would like to know what kind of grasses would thrive in the shade and also survive for my area of the country.
view the full question and answer

Growing Indian Wild Rice
September 23, 2010 - Could you tell me who has the Canadian rights to wild indian rice grass. It is a drought tolerant grass used in flour production for gluten free products. thanks
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