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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - May 26, 2010

From: Dixon, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants for erosion control along creek that often floods
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What would be good ground cover to plant along the bank of a storm creek and the river it runs into? Previous owner killed all the poison oak and garlic mustard all over the yard, but whatever he tried to replace it with is gone. My yard keeps eroding away. The half acre is flooded 3 months out of the year, so it has to be something that will be OK under ice or water that long. Located in northern Illinois.

ANSWER:

Grasses and grass-like plants are excellent for controlling erosion because their extensive fibrous root systems are able to hold soils in place so effectively.  You will need grasses, however, that can tolerate standing in water or very wet soil most of the time.  For all the plants listed below you will need to check other GROWING CONDITIONS on the species page for such criteria as Light Requirement and Soil Descrition to be sure that they match your site.  Here are several possibilities:

Andropogon glomeratus (bushy bluestem)

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint)

Carex stipata (owlfruit sedge)

Carex vulpinoidea (fox sedge)

Deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hairgrass)

Acorus calamus (calamus)

Equisetum hyemale var. affine (scouringrush horsetail)

There are several shrubs and herbaceous perennials that can tolerate growing in standing water.  Here are a few:

Alnus serrulata (hazel alder)

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush)

Spiraea alba (white meadowsweet)

Viburnum nudum (possumhaw)

Aruncus dioicus (bride's feathers)

Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Andropogon glomeratus

Calamagrostis canadensis

Carex stipata

Carex vulpinoidea

Deschampsia cespitosa

Alnus serrulata

Acorus calamus

Equisetum hyemale var. affine

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Spiraea alba

Viburnum nudum

Aruncus dioicus

Osmunda cinnamomea

 

 

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