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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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Tuesday - July 17, 2012

From: Valley CIty, ND
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: North Dakota Riverbank Stabilization
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Can you suggest plants to prevent and stabilize river bank erosion on Sheyenne River, ND? Must be tolerant to cold, varying level of salts and sulfates and water level (from drought to flooding)

ANSWER:

That’s quite a challenge!   Happily the basic approach to stabilize a riverbank works independent of the climate.  The best plants to stabilize a bank and prevent erosion are plants like grasses that have fibrous root systems and shrubs and perennials that spread with runners to form thickets. All we need to do then is to use the North Dakota list of recommended species to choose native plants which will stand up to the North Dakota climate.

For further reading on the subject, this Mr Smarty Plants answer was to a similar question from Wisconsin, and this one from Nebraska.  Another similar question had this well targeted reference:  “As you embark on this project you will find this publication from the USDA National Agroforestry Center, Biotechnical Streambank Protection: The use of plants to stabilize streambanks (Agroforestry Note #23, March 2002) a very valuable resource.”

Looking to recommendations for your specific situation - Grasses that may be useful [from the North Dakota Collection] include:
Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)
Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)
Carex stipata (Owlfruit sedge)
Do check out the list as there are fourteen grasses in the recommended species, these appeared to be well suited to spreading aggressively by rhizomes and the possibility of occasional flooding.

When looking at Shrubs or small trees I was attracted to those that had indications of Stream Bank Habitat, ones that aggressively sucker, or ones that were explicitly listed as hardy:
Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush)
Corylus americana (American hazelnut)
Cornus sericea (Redosier dogwood)
Salix discolor (Pussy willow)
Shepherdia argentea (Silver buffaloberry)
Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry)

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Awlfruit sedge
Carex stipata

Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Red osier dogwood
Cornus sericea

Silver buffaloberry
Shepherdia argentea

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