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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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Monday - April 09, 2012

From: Henrico, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Erosion Control in a Mid-Atlantic Shoreline
Answered by: Janice Kvale

QUESTION:

My family owns a riverfront property off of Machodoc Creek which runs into the Potomac on the Virginia side. The water is roughly 3 feet deep at the shoreline and concrete cylinders are used to control erosion. Those, however, keep wearing down and my family is interested in planting native plants to help control erosion. The concrete cylinders will remain in place. They don't want the view obstructed so it would have to be something 3' tall or less. The ground does get wet from occasional high tides. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

Erosion control nearly always means you are looking for grass or grass-like plants such as sedges or rushes that have an extensive root system to hold soil or sand. In addition, you need a plant that can withstand occasional tidal flooding of brackish or fresh water. The ones listed here are all are 3 feet or less tall and meet the above mentioned criteria.

You may want to do more surfing on your own, especially to note which plants are better for the amount of light available in your location and other characteristics that they may have. In addition to our Plant Database, the following are sites that may be particularly helpful:

http://www.wildflower.org/expert/show.php?id=4126 is a previously answered Mr. Smarty Plants question that contains relevant information for your problem and directions on searching for solution species.

http://www.nps.gov/plants/pubs/chesapeake/pdf/chesapeakenatives.pdf is a lengthy pamphlet published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service containing recommended species for wet areas that may have brackish water, with a focus on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

http://vnps.org/sites/default/files/VNPSState/files/VNPSTable%20Nurseries_0.pdf has an extensive list of suppliers of native plants in Virginia. In addition, our site lists these suppliers in Virginia.

http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/documents/cp_nat_plants.pdf is another list of native plants from the Virginia Department of Conservation.

In addition, the Henrico Public Works Department has an Environmental Department staff to help you with questions regarding wetlands and Resource Protection Area (RPA) issues; you can call them at (804) 501-4393.

Here are the plants that we found:

 

From the Image Gallery


American beach grass
Ammophila breviligulata

Roundseed panicgrass
Dichanthelium sphaerocarpon

Carolina sealavender
Limonium carolinianum

Bushy bluestem
Andropogon glomeratus

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Awlfruit sedge
Carex stipata

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Tuckahoe
Peltandra virginica

Pickerelweed
Pontederia cordata

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