Explore Plants

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
    
 

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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - April 29, 2011

From: Charlotte, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants for creek bank in North Carolina
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I would like a list of plant options to plant on an almost vertical creek bank in some location in Charlotte, NC. The creek runs through a 300 acre basin, maybe 3 or 4' high banks and I have never seen the creek out of its banks. Many large trees line the creek and large roots have been undermined along the creek over time and eventually collapse onto the creek. I am looking for some plant material that could be planted on the slopes that would not take over the entire area over time. I am looking for something that is not wild looking as this creek runs through several parks for a large, upscale residential development.

ANSWER:

If the slope is very steep (as you have indicated), you are probably going to need to create some mechanical means to hold any plants or seeds in place until the plants can become established.  One possibility is to use some sort of erosion control blanket. The erosion-control fabric works by slowing 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.  Erosion control material is available at many nurseries.  There is an excellent article, Biotechnical Streambank Protection: the use of plants to stablize streambanks, from the USDA National Agroforestry Center that suggests several other methods. Now to stabilize the area, we recommend grasses for controlling erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems that serve to hold the soil in place.  You can add other perennial herbaceous and woody plants along with the grasses. 

Below are some recommended plants native to North Carolina and Mecklenberg County or an adjacent county.  Since I don't know the amount of sunlight available or the type of soil for the area in question, you will need to check the GROWING CONDITIONS for each of these plants to be sure that they are compatible with your site. 

GRASSES AND GRASS-LIKE:

The grasses and sedges listed below are attractive.  Some of them will grow best in full sun, but others will grow in shade and part shade.

Andropogon virginicus (Broomsedge bluestem)

Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem)

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

FERNS:

Ferns generally grow in moist shade and part shade.  Some of the ones listed are evergreen.

Asplenium platyneuron (Ebony spleenwort) is evergreen.

Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides (Southern lady fern)

Dryopteris carthusiana (Shield fern) has sterile fronds that are evergreen.

Dryopteris cristata (Crested woodfern) has sterile fronds that are evergreen.

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) is evergreen.

Pteridium aquilinum (Western bracken fern)

HERBS:

Ageratina altissima var. altissima (White snakeroot)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

 Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue mistflower)

SHRUBS:

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Cephalanthus occidentalis (Common buttonbush)

Hypericum prolificum (Shrubby st. johnswort)

Malvaviscus arboreus (Turkscap)

Xanthorhiza simplicissima (Shrub yellowroot)

Here are photos from our Image Gallery of a few of the plants above:

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Can two species of Muhlenbergia be cross-pollinated from Portal AZ
July 17, 2012 - Will Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Big Muhly) cross-pollinate with Muhlenbergia porteri (Bush Muhly)? I am attempting to restore the grasslands on my private property to a pre-1900 state. Bush Muhly was a...
view the full question and answer

Hardy, inexpensive perennials for Mansfield, TX
March 12, 2008 - I am trying to fill two flowerbeds that are in full sun mostly and right next to the house. I want something that can live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and is pretty hardy. I also don't want to spe...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of rain, oxblood, and copper lily bulbs
November 30, 2012 - I have Rain Lily, Oxblood Lily, and Copper Lily bulbs out of the ground, that are putting out some green growth. I would like to plant them soon. Is it okay to plant now and in December, or do I hav...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for roadside in Gallatin TN
February 19, 2012 - What native plant would you suggest that we try to establish on 100 feet of road frontage which gets full afternoon sun? The soil is mostly clay, and it's on a rather sleep hill about 10 feet high. ...
view the full question and answer

Assessment of Turffalo buffalograss
June 26, 2009 - Hi, I'm in the process of planning what type of turf to get for a new home in NW Austin. Turffalo/Tech Turf has showed up as a great possibility and I saw some mention of it back on March 05, 2008...
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.