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?

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
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

Friday - June 29, 2012

From: Asheville, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Ground cover that won't hide snakes from Asheville NC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an unusual situation: several bare areas in an otherwise wooded area, which receive partial sun, and are not near water -- it rains here frequently, but the soil can become quite dry at times. Drainage is excellent, the soil is mostly a mixture of clay and black topsoil, with varying amounts of sand. The ground is flat to gently sloped. I need something to fill two purposes: erosion control, and provide soft ground cover which will not be unpleasant to walk on barefoot. I'd also like to avoid anything tussocky or high enough to provide refuge for snakes; we have occasional copperheads in this area. Due to topology and other restraints, mowing isn't really an option, so something which stays low and is non-invasive is a must.

ANSWER:

Okay, here's the thing: We were mentally choosing selections of plants to present to you for your woodland situation when you hit the part about somewhere you could walk barefoot and the snakes would be visible. Sometimes in the questions we receive, there are just one or two specifications that we can't meet. Frankly, we don't recommend walking barefoot anywhere, even in a manicured garden. There are hornets that live in holes in the ground, ants that will smarm up your leg and who-knows-what? in terms of broken, sharp sticks or rocks.

And the snake situation is this-anyone moving through a known snake area should have on sturdy outdoor shoes, not thongs and not barefoot. We agree a low groundcover would be better but snakes can slither in that as well as deep vegetation, and even hang out in trees and shrubs, where the shoe is not an issue. So, our first recommendations are for sharp eyes and safe shoes.

The best thing for erosion control is grasses, and we are not talking about mowing grasses, but taller ornamental grasses native to North Carolina. Grasses have long fibrous roots. In terms of snake control, we would recommend only the clumping grasses that would not be particularly hospitable to slithering.

We will search our database for grasses and other plants native to North Carolina that fall into a "groundcover" category by specifying 0 to 1' in height. We will also specify partial shade (2 to 6 hours of sun a day) and dry soil. How much this will yield in possibilities, we don't know. You can use the same method by using the Combination Search on our Native Plant Database, putting in your own specifications. We will give you some examples from our search; follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn the growing conditions, propagation methods and water needs.

Groundcover plants for North Carolina:

Adiantum capillus-veneris (Southern maidenhair fern)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Chrysogonum virginianum (Green and gold)

Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty)

Erythronium americanum (Yellow trout-lily)

Hexastylis arifolia (Littlebrownjug)

Hydrocotyle umbellata (Manyflower marshpennywort)

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry)

Oenothera laciniata (Cutleaf evening-primrose)

Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox)

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)

Portulaca pilosa (Chisme)

 

From the Image Gallery


Southern maidenhair fern
Adiantum capillus-veneris

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Green and gold
Chrysogonum virginianum

Carolina springbeauty
Claytonia caroliniana

Yellow trout-lily
Erythronium americanum

Little brown jug
Hexastylis arifolia

Manyflower marshpennywort
Hydrocotyle umbellata

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Cutleaf evening-primrose
Oenothera laciniata

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Kiss me quick
Portulaca pilosa

More Erosion Control Questions

Possibilities of plants for bank shale ledge in Johnstown, PA
April 20, 2008 - We have a mountain that we ripped out to build our house. The remaining ledge is mostly bank shale and everyone is telling us that nothing will grow on the hillside due to it being bank shale and a p...
view the full question and answer

Need to stabilize a south facing slope in Henderson, NC
April 30, 2010 - Hi, I have a south facing slope that is heavy clay with rock under it. It gets a lot of sun. I have planted a few bushes and some ground cover, but with all the snow and rain we had this past winter, ...
view the full question and answer

Establishing wildflowers on a slope in Virginia
August 18, 2012 - From Roanoke Virginia. I have a steep bank rising from one side of my driveway to woods above. Different areas vary from full sun, to half day shade. It is possible to carefully walk/stand on it, we a...
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

Plants to prevent riverbank erosion in NY
October 03, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm doing research into riverbank erosion in Broome County, NY, and I was wondering if you had some sort of resource that would be able to tell me which species of grasses...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center