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Saturday - March 05, 2011

From: Center Cross, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants to prevent riverbank erosion in VA
Answered by: Anne Bossart


Looking for a plant to prevent erosion on a riverbank on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Prefer something low, bank is a bit steep for regular mowing but could be mowed infrequently. Riverbank has been recently graded and drainage system put in, some grass present. Would like something that won't attract snakes or rodents. The less maintenance the better. Will get a lot of sun. River water will not reach the plants as they are above a seawall. What about liriope? Or a grass that won't grow too high?


Well, lirope is a plant that is native to Asia and seeing as the mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes we will not recommend you use liriope.

There are other useful plants that are native to your area.  Since they are adapted to your conditions (they evolved there) they will require less maintenance and will be contributing members to your local ecosystem of plants, animals, birds and insects. Grasses are ideal plants for preventing erosion on a bank as they have extensive fibrous root systems that hold the soil in place.

You could try one of these shorter (less than 3 feet) grass and grass-like plants that are native to Virgina and will grow in full sun:

Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) (this is not very ornamental but is a drought tolerant, low maintenance turf grass)

Ammophila breviligulata (American beach grass)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly) (when the dark pink seedheads of this grass are lit up by the sun in autumn it is a sight to see!)

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)

If you would like to mix in some lower shrubs, you could try:

Artemisia ludoviciana (Louisiana artemisia)

Hypericum frondosum (Cedarglade st. johnswort)

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)

Vaccinium angustifolium (Late lowbush blueberry) (this will grow in the sun even though our photo shows it in a woodland setting)

As far as attracting rodents (and thus snakes) goes, sorry,we can't make any promises. All sorts of critters live in balance in a healthy ecosystem!

Bouteloua dactyloides

Ammophila breviligulata

Carex texensis

Muhlenbergia capillaris



Sporobolus heterolepis

Artemisia ludoviciana

Hypericum frondosum

Rosa carolina

Vaccinium angustifolium






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