En Español

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - May 21, 2012

From: Syracuse, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildlife Gardens, Erosion Control, Shrubs
Title: Shrubs and small trees for a slope in NY
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We are looking for a living wall made of shrubs / small trees - no more than 25' for the top of a steep creek bed. We are looking for the best erosion preventing types.

ANSWER:

Generally speaking, plants with fibrous root systems or those that spread using stolons , such as Alnus serrulata (Hazel alder) are the best for holding a bank and resisting erosion.

Although you do not indicate anything about your conditions (light exposure and soild moisture) you can search our Native Plant database for likely candidates using the Combination Search function.  If you select: New York, shrubs, both the 6-12 ft and 12-36 ft sizes and then select your specific conditions, the database will generate a list of plants that occur in your area that meet those criteria.  Each plant on the list is linked to a detailed information page with images that will give you the information you need, even though you cannot sort specifically for "erosion preventing shrubs less than 25 ft in height".  For instance, the entry for the alder calls it "A multiple-trunked, suckering shrub, 12-20 ft. tall, with a picturesque habit and shiny gray-brown bark. Summer foliage is dark green and glossy, becoming yellow, tinged with red, in fall."  It is adapted to all light conditions, so as long as your site is moist enough, it would be a good choice.  Look for terms like "suckering, thicket-forming, or colony-forming" in the descriptions.

Some other plants to consider are:

Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush)

Calycanthus floridus (Eastern sweetshrub)

Cornus racemosa (Gray dogwood)

Ilex glabra (Inkberry)

Rhus glabra (Smooth sumac)

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (Common elderberry)

Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry)

By choosing a variety of native plants of differing sizes and forms you will create not just a living wall, but one that is attractive throughout the seasons and offers wildlife habitat, bringing your property to life with songbirds and butterflies.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Smooth alder
Alnus serrulata

Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Eastern sweetshrub
Calycanthus floridus

Gray dogwood
Cornus racemosa

Inkberry
Ilex glabra

Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Nannyberry
Viburnum lentago

More Erosion Control Questions

Recommendations for a steep slope in Arlington, VA
September 10, 2015 - I have a side yard area about 35' long and 10' wide. It is very steep and get full sun. I recently I removed all the weeds down to dirt. I want to do low maintenance plants with mulch.
view the full question and answer

Erosion control blankets for controlling slope in North Carolina
April 11, 2007 - We live in NC (red clay dirt). We recently/in the process of installing a pool. They contractor has completely unearthed our entire yard - and part of our property is on a substantial hill. Is there...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen native plants for slope in South Carolina
July 14, 2008 - We would like to plant an evergreen garden in our backyard, which is on a slope. It receives the sun from approx 9-4. We have an above ground pool, and patio area. Would also like a recommendation of ...
view the full question and answer

Erosion preventing plants for West Virginia
July 16, 2007 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and I've got a hillside that's too steep to mow. I'd like to put in plants that other than weeding and regular tending, will...
view the full question and answer

Riverbank Plants for Minnesota
September 04, 2013 - I would like to stablize a steep riverbank slope along the Upper Mississippi in St. Cloud MN. The slopes are almost 1:1. We are using an open cell concrete matt in which we are going to plant native...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center