Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
6 ratings

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

More Erosion Control Questions

Erosion control in West Union IA
June 22, 2010 - Erosion control and native grasses/plants for steep, shady slope in northeast Iowa. We are building a house in northeast Iowa (near West Union in Fayette County). The road that was graded to the ho...
view the full question and answer

Stopping erosion on bank of a Florida retention pond
July 21, 2015 - I live on a retention pond, which has had all vegetation killed by the lake doctor. As a result the bank has eroded so there is a drop off directly to the water rather than a sloping bank. What plan...
view the full question and answer

Full Sun, Wind-Tolerant Shrubs and Vines for Steep MN Hillside
June 26, 2013 - My neighbor and I share a very steep, large (in total almost 200 ft. wide) west-facing hillside in Excelsior, MN on Lake Minnetonka. We both have a flat grass area at the bottom so the hillside does n...
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep slope in Virginia
October 24, 2008 - Please help! Looking for landscaping ideas for a very large Steep hill. Features: slope is approximately 45-60 degrees, clay soil mixed with fill dirt, lots of deer, partial sun, seeking minimal maint...
view the full question and answer

Plants to stabilize a bank in VT
April 10, 2012 - I am looking for suggestion on what plants might best be suited for aiding in the stabilization of a very steep bank above Lake Champlain.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.