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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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Sunday - May 20, 2012

From: Lago Vista, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Need suggestions for native grasses to stabilize hillside Lago Vista, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I was hoping for some advice. We live on a hillside near Lake Travis. 10-12 years ago I removed all cedar trees. There is approximately 1-2 acrees of steep land between our residence and the lake. I attempt to clear the hillside annually, however in the steeper areas it is closer to every 2 years. There has been a resurgence of native grasses in the flatter areas, however in the steeper areas there still remains brush (approximately 6' tall) of unknown plants. I would love to get some sort of native grass growing on the steeper areas. Suggestions? Tips? Seeds you recommend buying from you guys? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants applauds your use of native grasses, but is wondering what kinds of plants you are removing in your annual clearings.

Lets go to our Native Plant Database page to find some grass species for your hillside. Scroll down to the Recommended Species Lists and click on the map to enlarge it. Click on Central Texas and you will get a list of 156 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Central Texas. We are only interested in grasses for now, so let’s  go to the Narrow Your Search box to the right of the screen and make  the following selections; select Texas under State, Grass/grass-like under General Appearance, and Perennial under Lifespan. Check Sun under Light requirement, and Dry under Soil Moisture. Click the Narrow Your Search button, and you will get a list of 9 species that fit these criteria. Clicking on the scientific name of each species will bring up its NPIN profile page that has information about the plants characteristics and growth requirements, and in most cases pictures.
As you go through the list, look for plants that meet your growing conditions, and are the right height for your situation.
A bit of information that could be useful is that there are cool season grasses and warm season grasses.  Warm season grasses germinate in the spring and, since they are heat and drought tolerant, are generally green throughout the spring and summer.  They  begin turning brown in the fall and remain so throughout the winter.  Cool season grasses germinate in the fall and are green and growing throughout the winter and spring, but die back in the heat of summer. You might consider some of each type so that you could have grass cover for most of the year.
Here are three possibilities for warm season grasses

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's muhly)

One possibility for a cool season grass

Elymus canadensis (Canada wild rye)

Seeds for these grasses along with planting tips are available from Native American Seed Company in Junction, TX.

 

From the Image Gallery


Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Lindheimer's muhly
Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

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