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?


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 - August 05, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Watering, Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Wind and erosion tolerant plants from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I recently cleared a fire break by removing cedar from around my home in West Austin. I'd like to plant the exposed NW facing slope with native shrubs and trees. Looking for selections that can withstand the high winds typical of Spring/Fall cold fronts and help with erosion control on the slope. Can you please help me identify drought tolerant Edwards Plateau natives with strong root systems?


It just so happens that in our Special Collections we have one for the Edwards Plateau. This is how this area is described:

"Edwards Plateau

The Edwards Plateau area includes 1.45 million acres known as the Granitic Central Basin in Llano and Mason Counties (Table 2). The Balcones Escarpment forms the distinct boundary of the Edwards Plateau on its eastern and southern borders and outlines what is known as the Texas Hill Country. The area is a deeply dissected, rapidly drained stony plain having broad, flat to undulating divides. The original vegetation was grassland or open savannah-type plains with tree or brushy species found along rocky slopes and stream bottoms."

Please note that the original vegetation of this area is characterized as grassland or open savannah-type plains. The very best plants you can put in an area are those that belong there, that have already adapted to life in the rainfall, climate and soils of that area. We are going to look first at grasses on that list. It is a known fact that the long fibrous roots of grasses are the best treatment for erosion problems. And, in terms of wind, we believe that one of the loveliest sights in Central Texas are the long, tall native grasses blowing and bending in the wind. After that, we will search on the list for shrubs or small trees that will sucker or spread in such a way as to also hold the slope in place.

One word of advice, first. Please make sure you are prepared to offer some sort of watering, to the plot in the first few months after it as been planted. It seems like you just can't count on gettng rain when you need it, and the long-range forecasts don't give us a whole lot of encouragement on that. It would be a shame to spend the resources to put in good native plants and then watch them die.

We will go to the list we linked you to above and, using the list of specification s for plants on the right-hand side of the page, select first on "grass or grasslike" for Habit, "dry" for Soil Moisture and "sun" (which we consider to be 6 hours or more of sun a day) for Light Requirements. After making some suggestions from the resulting list, we will search on "shrubs" for Habit, with the other characteristics being the same. You can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn its growing conditions, propagation instructions, etc. We always suggest that woody plants (trees and shrubs) be planted in the coolest time of the year, November to January. We will select 6 of each to suggest and check to make sure our suggestions are native to Travis County.

Grasses or Grasslike Plants for the Edwards Plateau:

Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass)

Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss)

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (Silver beard grass)

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's muhly)

Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feathergrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Shrubs for Central Texas:

Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita)

Dalea frutescens (Black dalea)

Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood)

Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo)

Rhus virens (Evergreen sumac)

Salvia ballotiflora (Shrubby blue sage)


From the Image Gallery

Indian ricegrass
Achnatherum hymenoides

Bouteloua dactyloides

Silver beard grass
Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

Lindheimer's muhly
Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

Mexican feathergrass
Nassella tenuissima

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Chrysactinia mexicana

Black dalea
Dalea frutescens

Texas kidneywood
Eysenhardtia texana

Leucophyllum frutescens

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Shrubby blue sage
Salvia ballotiflora

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Native grasses for South Texas Coast
April 02, 2010 - Grasses S. Texas Coast. Hello! I love all of the information available in your database Mr. Smarty Plants database (as well as the rest of the site) and find it quite useful on many fronts. My...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a sloped pond bank in SW Ontario
March 19, 2010 - I'm looking for native (Southwestern Ontario, Canada) plants to slow erosion and provide a nice appearance on a mildly steep, 20 foot bank leading to a large pond. The bank faces west. And, are tree...
view the full question and answer

Thicken clumps of Panicum virgatum in Stafford VA
July 22, 2009 - I am growing Panicum Virgatum varieties that will be transplanted in September to form a Native American maze project. I have given the quart size starts a root fertilizer when I planted them to try ...
view the full question and answer

Grass Groundcover for Georgia Hillside
July 07, 2016 - I am looking for a grass to cover a hillside area down to a lake. It is mostly sunny in the spring & summer, but has no moisture except any rain that falls. I am not interested in having to mow it all...
view the full question and answer

Erosion prevention on shady Pennsylvania stream
July 28, 2011 - I'm looking for a few species to plant along a stream channel to help reduce erosion during heavy rains. The soil is moist and in full shade. Ferns and thorny bushes are the only current vegetation...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center