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Thursday - July 28, 2011

From: lackawaxen, PA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Water Gardens, Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Erosion prevention on shady Pennsylvania stream
Answered by: Guy Thompson


I'm looking for a few species to plant along a stream channel to help reduce erosion during heavy rains. The soil is moist and in full shade. Ferns and thorny bushes are the only current vegetation under the oaks and beach trees. There are plenty of deer and other critters about that might complicate the choice.


Mr. Smarty Plants suggests that if you have a persistently wet area, consider Juncus effusus (Common rush), a species that will grow in water-saturated soil. I would plant the lower stream bank with sedges, which, unlike most grasses, will thrive in shade. Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) or Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) should form a dense turf that resists soil erosion.  Patches of Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) at this level would provide color.   A bit farther up the bank, I recommend Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) and  Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper).  Either of these will produce a dense ground cover, with Virginia creeper remaining at ground level if there are no nearby trees or shrubs to climb.  Flowering plants to consider include Campanula rotundifolia (Bluebell bellflower), Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower), and Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty).  An understory small tree, Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud) might complement the other species.  If the upper bank is usually quite dry, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick) will create a solid ground cover.

Check out this list of local suppliers for the species recommended above.  Once established, these plantings should solve the problem of erosion threatened by both large and small storms.  The ground covers and sedges are resistant to deer herbivory.


From the Image Gallery

Common rush
Juncus effusus

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Bluebell bellflower
Campanula rotundifolia

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Carolina springbeauty
Claytonia caroliniana

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

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