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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.

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Thursday - June 06, 2013

From: Asheville, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Erosion Control for a NC Clay Slope
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Hi, We have a large slope on the road edge of our property that has been gradually eroding with spring rains (NC red clay). We would really like to plant something for erosion control but the bank is too steep for us to trim/maintain it much. We are a part of a community near the forest that values a natural aesthetic but we do have HOA guidelines that lead me to believe we would prefer a ground cover over a grass. It is a sunny north facing slope, 20' tall 100' wide with a pitch steep enough to require climbing on all fours. .

ANSWER:

  Mr Smarty Plants was thinking – “My, that sounds familiar” – and I went off and found a very similar question and answer that came through last fall.  It was entitled “Slope Erosion control for Fairview NC” and had a very similar sounding situation to yours.   I also found another one from your state, which is slightly different in that the bank was shaded :  “Native plants for erosion control in North Carolina”. 

  In looking at your specific request,  Mr Smarty Plants would like to push back just a little and remind you that the fibrous root systems with perhaps runners that grasses have are key to conquering erosion on steep slopes.  What you can do is select grasses that are more amenable to the HOA aesthetic.  Of those mentioned in the previous answer, two grow relatively low,  Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) has a rather pleasing clumping nature and Carex texensis (Texas sedge) has a turflike aspect.

  Wildflowers make a nice color addition, the recommended flowers were:
Coreopsis tinctoria (Plains coreopsis)
Baptisia australis (Blue wild indigo)
Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue mistflower)
Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)
Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot)

  On an area that large, you may want to consider some shrubs also.  I used the North Carolina Recommended Species page to search a little further and narrowed the selection to shrubs that thrive in the sun and in clay.  May I suggest :
Robinia hispida (Bristly locust), which is specifically recommended for erosion control, Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle), Physocarpus opulifolius (Atlantic ninebark), Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac),  or Rhus glabra (Smooth sumac).  

 

From the Image Gallery


Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Plains coreopsis
Coreopsis tinctoria

Blue mistflower
Conoclinium coelestinum

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Bristly locust
Robinia hispida

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

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