En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - January 09, 2010

From: Aiken, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants to stabilize a steep bank in South Carolina
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I would like to use native plantings to stabilize a steep bank. The bank is on the side of the gravel road I cut back into the woods and around a 36" pipe going under the road to allow the free flow of a spring head. The bank is only about 5' tall on both sides and 50' long. I headed the ends of the pipe off and put rye grass all over it to get through the winter but with all the rain it is not helping around the pipe. I am looking for something to fit in with the natural look of the woods and grow naturally. I have spent some time on the Recommended Species page but have not been able to find anything. Thank you.

ANSWER:

With all the rain, it sounds as if you would benefit from using some sort of erosion control blanket, especially around the pipe. 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 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. You can read about a stream bank stabilization project implemented by the Department of Environmental Services, Arlington, Viriginia. Although their problem was not exactly the same as yours, they did use the erosion control blankets with great success.

Now for plants to use for erosion control, grasses are ideal because their extensive fibrous root systems hold the soil in place.  Here are some native grasses that are attractive and grow well in South Carolina:

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly)

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Here are some other plants that should work well:

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Vaccinium stamineum (deerberry)

Vaccinium pallidum (Blue Ridge blueberry) and here are photos

Rubus trivialis (southern dewberry)

All of the above plants are native to Aiken County, South Carolina but since I don't know the particulars of your site (e.g., soil type, soil moisture, available sunlight), you need to check the "Growing Conditions" on each of the species' pages to make sure that they match those of your site.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery for the plants listed above:


Sorghastrum nutans

Chasmanthium latifolium

Schizachyrium scoparium

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Andropogon gerardii

Panicum virgatum

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Ceanothus americanus

Coreopsis lanceolata

Rudbeckia hirta

Vaccinium stamineum

Rubus trivialis

 

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Shade tolerant groundcover plants for Tarrant County, Texas
November 01, 2011 - I live in far NE Tarrant County (Ft Worth), TX and need a groundcover that can tolerate complete shade and poor, rocky, clay soil. I need mostly for erosion control, and needs to be relatively low
view the full question and answer

Planting grass seed in Greenville SC
April 24, 2009 - What type of grass seed is best to use in a sunny/ shady area where some grass is already growing? And how is the best way to prep the area for seed and fertilizer or what should I do before and after...
view the full question and answer

Alkalinity-tolerant grasses
July 24, 2005 - Dear Sirs - Are you aware of any grass species that could survive in strongly alkaline soils (ph from 10 up to 12) Thanks a lot.
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for plants for a bird/small wildlife refuge in Wichita Co, TX.
August 26, 2011 - With our continuing drought in North Texas, I'm planning to transform my small backyard into a bird/small wildlife "refuge". What types of native plants and grasses can I plant in dry, hot Wichita ...
view the full question and answer

Planting buffalograss from Surfside Beach SC
September 14, 2012 - How do I plant buffalograss along a lake? Do I just spread the seeds?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center