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

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:


Andropogon glomeratus


Carex texensis


Chasmanthium latifolium


Schizachyrium scoparium


Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides


Polystichum acrostichoides


Asclepias tuberosa


Conoclinium coelestinum


Hypericum prolificum


Malvaviscus arboreus

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Establishing native pasture in East Texas
October 29, 2011 - We are the owners of a 20 acre parcel in Harrison County, Texas. It is currently planted in pine trees. Our intentions are to thin and harvest the pine trees over the next 10 years. We would like t...
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep slope in Pittsburgh PA
April 25, 2013 - I have a similar question to one from SC. I live in Pittsburgh, PA. We have a steep slope behind a newly built in pool. What type of plants can I put on the hillside to hold the soil. It gets a ...
view the full question and answer

What is pulling Indian Grass out of a park in Washington DC?
June 29, 2011 - We are renovating a park in Washington, DC on the waterfront. We have planted Sorghastrum Nutans (Indian Grass). During the evening/overnight something is pulling the plants from the ground. It is onl...
view the full question and answer

Plants for slope in central Alabama
July 26, 2011 - Our home is atop a 20-25' eastern facing sandy loam slope in central Alabama. It was previously covered w/ kudzu. After 3 yrs. of eradication of the kudzu we are ready to plant with native grasses/pl...
view the full question and answer

Plants for aerobic septic system in Houston
February 03, 2011 - My husband and I would like to plants some trees and shrubs, but we have an aerobic system taking up most of the yard :( Can you recommend any trees that won't hurt that? Also shrubs for our weath...
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