En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

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


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?


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

Green arrow arum
Peltandra virginica

Pontederia cordata

More Erosion Control Questions

Erosion for check dam in San Antonio
February 13, 2009 - What are the best trees for a shallow soil wind break in San Antonio? I am building a check dam (maybe 2' deep by 20' wide tall) over a shallow limestone gully to slow the erosion. the gully drai...
view the full question and answer

Plants to stop erosion in Alabama
July 03, 2009 - Our front yard is being washed down the street when we have rainstorms. It's been especially bad this year due to all the rain.What kinds of plants/grasses could we use to help stop the water from r...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover to control erosion in Montgomery County, Texas
February 24, 2014 - I am looking for some kind of ground cover to control erosion on a north facing slope in Montgomery County, Texas. The area gets very little direct sunlight. I need something that will establish quick...
view the full question and answer

Chesapeake Bay Erosion Control from White Stone VA
January 14, 2012 - Native Wetland Plants for Chesapeake Bay Erosion Control -- I have a wooded lot (pine and hardwoods)leading to 4-5 ft. wide flat shoreline edged with riprap. What native wetland plants survive salt wa...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control in Ohio
April 23, 2014 - We live on the north side of the Maumee River in Toledo, OH. We are looking to plant something low (3' max) that will stabilize the very steep hill leading down to the river, preventing erosion. Wo...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center