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Mr. Smarty Plants - Restoring a slope in the Mississippi sandhill region

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Monday - August 01, 2011

From: Brooklyn, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Water Gardens, Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Restoring a slope in the Mississippi sandhill region
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We are building on 5 acres (leaving 60% as is, natural). Only building a small (900-1200 sq ft house) & clearing 1 acre of the valley for a pond. There is a steep slope (where we had to put field drain & septic) that will face the porch that we need to stop from eroding. I do not want to cut any grass & also would like this slope to attract & help feed the rabbits & deer on the property. We want to keep it as natural as possible, want to live in the country/woods. It is also close to wildlife management area & De Soto National Forrest. It is about 200 ft long & 20 feet wide. Any ideas? Wildflowers or just ground cover is fine with us. Was considering clover because of the animals.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is assuming that your property is in the so-called sandhills region, having dry, well-drained soil and Pinus palustris (Longleaf pine) as the dominant tree species.  Restoring your steep slope would best be done with native grasses, which are excellent in preventing erosion.  Unfortunately, the dominant grass in your area is Aristida stricta (Pineland threeawn), also called wiregrass.  Wiregrass seed are only produced after a fire or after mowing, so they are hard to come by.  And their germination rate is low.  So wiregrass is usually propagated by planting plugs of the grass. These can be obtained commercially, but it might be impractical to get enough for your purpose.  I would suggest that you plant (or perhaps transplant from your property) a few wiregrass plants here and there and leave them to increase over the years.  If your sandy slope contains a good proportion of silt or loam it might be able to support other grasses less common in your area, especially if there is extra moisture from your septic drain field.  Some of these, such as Big bluestem and Little bluestem, are described in this web site.  Bear in mind that most grasses grow slowly at first, spending the first year or so establishing their root systems. One species you should definitely avoid is Cogongrass, a non-native, invasive grass that is causing lots of problems throughout the South.

Other plants of the sandhill region include Pityopsis graminifolia var. graminifolia (Narrowleaf silkgrass), Sporobolus junceus (pineywoods dropseed), Licania michauxii (Gopher apple), Diospyros virginiana (Common persimmon), Serenoa repens (Saw palmetto), Cnidoscolus urens var. stimulosus (Finger rot)(mind the stinging hairs!), Ilex glabra (Inkberry), Eriogonum tomentosum (Wild buckwheat), and Croton argyranthemus (Silver croton). Choosing from this mixture of grasses and broadleaf species should give you a good variety on your slope with species well adapted to your area.  And some of them provide food for wildlife.  I suspect that these colorful species: Monarda citriodora (Lemon beebalm), Oenothera speciosa (Pink evening primrose), Ratibida columnifera (Mexican hat) and Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan), would also thrive on your slope. In fact, they would probably be the most effective in giving you quick coverage if seeds are planted in the autumn.

For the banks of the pond that you are planning I would recommend one of the sedges, e.g., Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge), Carex amphibola (Creek sedge), Carex annectens (Yellowfruit sedge) or Carex vulpinoidea (Fox sedge)Andropogon virginicus (Broomsedge bluestem) would also do well by the pond.

Check these suppliers, who should have most of the plants named above.  Additional native plant sources and other plant information can be found through the Mississippi Native Plant Society.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Pineland threeawn
Aristida stricta

Narrowleaf silkgrass
Pityopsis graminifolia var. graminifolia

Common persimmon
Diospyros virginiana

Saw palmetto
Serenoa repens

Finger rot
Cnidoscolus urens var. stimulosus

Inkberry
Ilex glabra

Lemon beebalm
Monarda citriodora

Pink evening primrose
Oenothera speciosa

Mexican hat
Ratibida columnifera

Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Broomsedge bluestem
Andropogon virginicus

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