Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Tuesday - June 22, 2010

From: West Union, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Erosion control in West Union IA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Erosion control and native grasses/plants for steep, shady slope in northeast Iowa. We are building a house in northeast Iowa (near West Union in Fayette County). The road that was graded to the house site resulted in a steep (45 to 60 degree), shady slope of bare dirt on one side, about 30 feet long and up to fifteen down. What native grasses and other plants would be good to control erosion? Will erosion control blankets help?

ANSWER:

We recommend grasses for controlling erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems that serve to hold the soil in place.  However, seeding grass is not the whole process.  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  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.

We will go to our Native Plant Database and find grasses and perhaps some spreading shrubs native to Iowa that should help with your erosion. These are not lawn-type mowable grasses, but more decorative prairie grasses that, being native to Iowa, will be able to cope with soil and climatic conditions. Follow each plant link to the page on the individual plant for information on expected size and sun requirements. We will be searching in our Native Plant Database for plants that can tolerate "part shade" (2 to 6 hours of sun a day) and "shade" (less than 2 hours of sun a day). We will also determine if the plants grow natively in or around Fayette County, USDA Hardiness Zone 4a to 4b.

Shade Plants for Erosion Control in West Union Iowa:

Grasses:

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Shrubs:

Amorpha nana (dwarf false indigo)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Symphoricarpos albus (common snowberry)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)

Herbaceous Blooming Plants:

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Geranium maculatum (spotted geranium)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Andropogon gerardii

Bouteloua curtipendula

Carex blanda

Calamagrostis canadensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Amorpha nana

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Symphoricarpos albus

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Asclepias tuberosa

Callirhoe involucrata

Echinacea purpurea

Geranium maculatum

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Plants for narrow planter boxes in San Antonio
October 02, 2010 - We have a narrow flower planter box in three sections above a french drain in front of our house. The box is about 2 feet high (filled with Gardenville soil) above a french drain covered with filter ...
view the full question and answer

Technique of using cut flowers to make paper
October 18, 2006 - Have an inquiry regarding how to locate (or if such a craft/technique exists) someone or some service that is aware of a process to take fresh-cut flowers & dry & press them into paper or onto paper t...
view the full question and answer

Low-maintenance native plants for Arizona
March 12, 2009 - Will you please suggest some Native plants that can be left without care for the summer and survive - other than cactus?
view the full question and answer

Forget-me-nots choking a spring in Bethlehem PA
June 20, 2013 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I am restoring a native plant area along a spring that feeds directly into our local creek. Right now the spring is becoming choked with forget-me-nots, that I am trying ...
view the full question and answer

Die-off of Texas bluebells
June 04, 2008 - I live in southeast Travis County east of IH35 in the Blackland Prairie. We have a gorgeous stand of Texas bluebells. Last year, the bluebells would look fine, then they would turn brown and die for...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.