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
3 ratings

Tuesday - July 14, 2009

From: Oak Ridge, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Looking for plants for erosion control in Tennessee.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

We are looking for plants native to east Tenessee that will help control erosion once the kudzu in a ravine has been removed. The site is full sun with dry soil. Moderate to fast growth and resistance to deer would also be helpful, but not essential. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Marti Salk

ANSWER:

 Congratulations on getting rid of the Kudzu!

Generally, the best plants for erosion control are grasses. They have fibrous roots that can really grip the soil and keep it from washing away. These are not going to be turf grasses, and some of them grow several feet tall; the taller they are, the longer their roots are, thus the advantage.

There are warm season grasses and cool season grasses.  Warm season grasses germinate in the spring and, since they are heat and drought tolerant, are generally green throughout the spring and summer.  They  begin turning brown in the fall and remain so throughout the winter.  Cool season grasses germinate in the fall and are green and growing throughout the winter and spring, but die back in the heat of summer. 

Here are the names of three cool season grasses you might consider.

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye), with more information from Native American Seed

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye), with more information from Native American Seed

Pascopyrum smithii (western wheatgrass) is another cool season native used extensively for erosion control.  

There are numerous warm season grasses for your Tennessee setting:

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

To  expand this list, go to the Native Plant Data Base page and scroll down to the Combination Search box. Select Tennessee for the State, "grass/grass-like" for Habit, perennial for Duration,  check sun for Light requirement and dry for Soil moisture. Click on the "Submit combination Search " button, and you will get a list of 20 plants that meet these criteria. Clicking on the name of each plant willtake you to its NPIN page which has information about its growth requirements as well as images.

You can read a paper, "The Use of Native Warm Season Grasses for Critical Area Stabilization" by C. F. Miller and J. A. Dickerson in the Proceedings of the 2nd Eastern Native Grass Symposium, Baltimore, MD Novermber 1999, describing the use of warm season grasses.

 


Elymus canadensis

Elymus virginicus

Bouteloua curtipendula

Panicum virgatum

 


Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Need suggestions for native grasses to stabilize hillside Lago Vista, TX.
May 20, 2012 - I was hoping for some advice. We live on a hillside near Lake Travis. 10-12 years ago I removed all cedar trees. There is approximately 1-2 acrees of steep land between our residence and the lake. ...
view the full question and answer

Low maintenance, shade tolerant groundcover for Pacific Northwest
August 09, 2012 - What's a good low maintenance, shade tolerant ground cover for the Pacific Northwest? It needs to have good erosion control, too.
view the full question and answer

Wildflowers for hill with erosion in San Carlos, CA
September 22, 2012 - What wildflowers would you suggest for our hills that have erosion, low ground cover in San Carlos, California?
view the full question and answer

Plants for erosion control on steep bank in Minnesota
October 21, 2008 - I live in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. I have a steep slope in back yard which gets considerable rain runoff from the homes above me. What plants/shrubs/trees could I plant on the slope to stop the...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control blankets for controlling slope in North Carolina
April 11, 2007 - We live in NC (red clay dirt). We recently/in the process of installing a pool. They contractor has completely unearthed our entire yard - and part of our property is on a substantial hill. Is there...
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