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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - November 21, 2010

From: San Jose, CA
Region: California
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: California native bunch grasses good for erosion control
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

In response to your answer about deep rooted native plants good for erosion control, don't forget to include native bunchgrasses. here in California, our bunchgrasses have roots that go 10ft, 20ft deep. That's why they can survive our dry summers and provide superb erosion control value.

ANSWER:

You are absolutely right that bunch grasses with their extensive fibrous root systems are excellent plants for erosion control.  Grasses are usually the first plants I recommend for steep slopes that are eroding.  Thank you for pointing out my omission of them—I should be ashamed (and I truly am!) that I failed to mention them in the answer you are referring to.   Here are a few suggested ones that occur in the area of Studio City, California (the location of the question mentioned above):

Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass)

Elymus glaucus (Blue wild rye) occurs over most of California.  Here are photos and more information.

Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted hairgrass)

Koeleria macrantha (Prairie junegrass)

Muhlenbergia rigens (Deergrass)

Nassela pulchra (Purple needlegrass), the state grass of California, is an important grass for erosion control.  You can read about it and see photos of it and other native California grasses in Landowner's Guide to Native Grass Enhancement and Restoration from the Hastings Natural History Reservation of the California Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

You can also find more California native bunch grasses listed on the Larner Seeds web page.  Larner Seeds is one of the seed companies listed in our National Suppliers Directory specializing in native plants in California and is based in Bolinas, CA.

Here are photos of some of the grasses listed above from our Image Gallery:


Achnatherum hymenoides


Deschampsia cespitosa


Koeleria macrantha


Muhlenbergia rigens

 

 

 

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