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
7 ratings

Tuesday - September 08, 2009

From: Orange, CA
Region: California
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Bioswale in Orange CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm looking for plants for a bio-swale in Southern California. Do you have any suggestions for plants that do well in water but can also can handle long dry summers?

ANSWER:

Common swales are typically vegetated with turf grass and are a conveyance tool, basically a grassy stormwater sewer that conveys water as quickly as possible from Point A to Point B. A bioswale differs in that the turf grass is replaced with native prairie vegetation. This will significantly reduce the flow velocity (slow down of the runoff) in the swale’s drainage course. The residence time of the runoff is thus increased, which gives it the time to be stored, filtered, and infiltrated. These processes remove pollutants and suspended solids from runoff.

We found this information on bioswale construction from the USDA, which shows compost tilled into the native soil (clay, in this instance) to facilitate the drainage. These are plants with fibrous roots that will hold in the soil when water is rushing by, help to slow it down, and permit the pollutants in the water to be filtered out. 

Since our suggestions are basically for prairie grasses, you might be interested in reading our How-To Article Recreating a Prairie, which has instructions for time of year to be planting, preparing the soil, planting and caring for the grasses. When you are ready to begin, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, put your town and state in the Enter Search Location box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape consultants in your general area who can help you select the right plants for your purpose.

We found eight grasses native to the Orange County area that we believe fit your specifications. Follow the links to each individual plant webpage to learn expected height, season, etc.

Native grasses for bioswale in Southern California

Bromus ciliatus (fringed brome)

Juncus torreyi (Torrey's rush)

Nassella viridula (green needlegrass)

Phragmites australis (common reed)

Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (softstem bulrush)

Typha latifolia (broadleaf cattail)

Andropogon glomeratus (bushy bluestem)

Muhlenbergia richardsonis (mat muhly)


Bromus ciliatus

Juncus torreyi

Nassella viridula

Phragmites australis

Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani

Typha latifolia

Andropogon glomeratus

Muhlenbergia rigens

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Severely cutback sloping soil in Dripping Springs TX
May 09, 2010 - We have 5.5 acres off Henly Loop just north of Hwy 290 about 10 miles west of Dripping Springs, TX. The former property owners carved out soil from a sloping area to get soil for the driveway. Doing ...
view the full question and answer

Native border plants to stop erosion
February 18, 2015 - I need native border plants to assist in stopping soil erosion due to water run off from rain and the Catawba River.
view the full question and answer

Burning back Gulf Muhly instead of trimming from San Antonio
December 19, 2011 - A few years ago I noticed that the Center burned back its Gulf Muhly rather than cutting it back. Did that study result in any conclusions or recommendations?
view the full question and answer

What flowers will ducks and swans not eat?
January 11, 2009 - I live by ducks and swans. They love eating my flowers. Any suggestions on what flowering plants they won't eat?
view the full question and answer

Need grasses to stabilize a moderately steep slope in Pennsylvania
May 17, 2010 - Hello. We have a moderately steep slope in a shady area that is in need of some help. The grass that is in place there seems to be thriving - nice and green, with good growth. However, kids running...
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