Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

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

More Vines Questions

Care for cultivar of native Bignonia capreolata
February 05, 2008 - I planted Dragon Lady Cross Vines at the end of the fall last year. When would be the best time to trim them. I live in the Dallas area. They look kind of beat up right now and I thought if I trimmed...
view the full question and answer

Flowering vine for summer sun in Southern California
November 26, 2013 - Hi and thanks for this great site. 1)Southern CA -- South facing wall(lattice on top)total height 7ft with mature Boston Ivy-- Viburnum tinus and Euonymus at base. THE PROBLEM: East 25% (25ft) has b...
view the full question and answer

Spots on leaves of sevenleaf creeper in Austin
November 14, 2009 - Have 3 seven leaf creepers that are planted in mostly shade. In Sept & Oct 2009 all 3 plants had dried up leaves which fell off; however, all three plants grew new leaves when we got rain and are com...
view the full question and answer

Orange-red caterpillar with black spikes on passionflower vine
September 19, 2009 - What kind of orange-red caterpillar with black spikes is all over my passion vine?
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive Asiatic Jasmine from Austin
October 25, 2012 - Is Trachelospermum asiaticum considered a native texas plant? Is there an example growing at the Center that can be viewed?
view the full question and answer

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