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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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Tuesday - August 02, 2011

From: St. Petersburg, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Water Gardens, Wildlife Gardens, Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Looking for grasses for slope around retention pond in Florida
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in St. Petersburg, FL on a large retention pond. Most of my neighbors on the pond have seawalls. I do not nor do my neighbors to my left and right. I am interested in colorful grasses to put on my very steep 75 foot bank which is high on one end and low on another end that curves. I would like to plant grasses that would attract wildlife such as butterflies and songbirds hopefully.. (We have several kinds of fish, water birds, turtles, snakes (yuk), otters, and once in a while a random alligator.) I have put several types of reeds, water lillies that are native, canna, (into the low water area itself). But from reading your responses grasses are the way to go. Would greatly benefit from your input. I neglected to mention we have had awful freezes the last 3 years.

ANSWER:

With the plants you have already installed, it sounds as if you are well on your way to controlling erosion on your slope and furnishing food for butterflies and songbirds.  The grasses will be an ideal addition since they are very effective in stabilizing slopes since their fibrous root systems hold the soil in place so well.  The Grass Family is an essential larval host for most banded skippers and most of the satyrs as well as other butterflies and moths.  They also provide seeds for many species of birds. You don't say how far from the coast you are, but most of the grasses below are at least moderately resistant to salt winds.  All of these grasses are found in Pinellas county and many of these grasses were found on the Florida Native Plant Society's page, Natives to Grow in Pinellas County.  You can find other grasses and other plants on that page that are suitable for landscaping in Pinellas County.   You can search our National Suppliers Directory to find nurseries and seed companies specializing in native plants in your area.

 Eragrostis elliottii (field lovegrass)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly) and here are more photos and information.  This grass has a beautiful purple inflorescence.

Paspalum vaginatum (seashore paspalum)

Spartina patens (Marsh-hay cord grass) and here are photos and more information.  Birds use the seeds.

Spartina alterniflora (Saltmarsh cordgrass) and here are more photos and information.  This grass is a host for Automensis louisiana (Louisiana eyed silkmoth)  and Poanes aaroni (Aaron's skipper).

Spartina bakeri (sand cordgrass)

Uniola paniculata (Sea oats) and here are more photos and information.

Spartina spartinae (Gulf cordgrass)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) and here are photos and more information.  This grass is a host for Anatrytone logan (Delaware skipper) and Hesperia attalus (dotted skipper).

 

From the Image Gallery


Gulf muhly
Muhlenbergia capillaris

Saltmarsh cordgrass
Spartina alterniflora

Sea oats
Uniola paniculata

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

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