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Tuesday - May 19, 2015

From: Urbana, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Vines
Title: Plant for Erosion Control on Wooded Slope in MD
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


We are looking for a plant to help with erosion control on a wooded slope next to our drive. The roots of several of the trees are exposed like a shelf, so I think it's a fairly severe problem. We are hoping for something a) native, b) attractive to birds, bees, and butterflies (probably not a grass?), and c) really good at erosion control. We had thought about the riparian/riverbank grape, but it seems to have a mixed reputation, and nobody seems to use it for erosion control. The bank is fairly shady -- maybe getting 4 hours of sun a day. We have looked through the database, but I have to admit I was hoping for something that could also serve as a food source for our flying and four-legged friends as well as hold our banks together, if that's possible. We are in the Piedmont area of Maryland.


Riverbank grape (Vitis riparia) is used for erosion control and is an excellent food and habitat for wildlife. I think that it is the best native plant option for your situation. Here's some of the information from our website: Grows in low, rich woods; stream banks; thickets; open hillsides. Fast-growing and long-lived. Flood, disease and insect tolerant. Relished by songbirds, gamebirds, waterfowl and mammals.

Also interestingly, there's information about the vine on the website (an ongoing public art project exploring wild plants in urban landscapes that begain in Baltimroe, MD in 2010. Commonly known as weeds, the project draws attention to the tiny pockets of wildness within the urban environment in order to challenge the common practice of privileging certain parts of nature at the expense of others.

Habitat: commonly found in the understory of moist woods, along chain-link fences and roadside guardrails, and on banks of streams and rivers; seedlings are highly shade tolerant and its vines are cold hardy and disease resistant; climbing vines can overwhelm growth of nearby plants.

Ecological function: food and habitat for wildlife; erosion control; tolerant of roadway salt.

History: Vitis riparia has the largest geographical range of all North American grape species. It has been used as rootstock to transfer cold hardiness and disease resistance to the wine grape. Some Native American tribes made a medicinal tea from its leaves and consumed its fruit both dried and fresh. The fruit has been used to make jams, jellies, and wines. Its young tendrils are edible raw or cooked and a yellow dye can be obtained from its leaves.


From the Image Gallery

Riverbank grape
Vitis riparia

Riverbank grape
Vitis riparia

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