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?

Share

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

Saturday - March 05, 2011

From: Center Cross, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants to prevent riverbank erosion in VA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Looking for a plant to prevent erosion on a riverbank on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Prefer something low, bank is a bit steep for regular mowing but could be mowed infrequently. Riverbank has been recently graded and drainage system put in, some grass present. Would like something that won't attract snakes or rodents. The less maintenance the better. Will get a lot of sun. River water will not reach the plants as they are above a seawall. What about liriope? Or a grass that won't grow too high?

ANSWER:

Well, lirope is a plant that is native to Asia and seeing as the mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes we will not recommend you use liriope.

There are other useful plants that are native to your area.  Since they are adapted to your conditions (they evolved there) they will require less maintenance and will be contributing members to your local ecosystem of plants, animals, birds and insects. Grasses are ideal plants for preventing erosion on a bank as they have extensive fibrous root systems that hold the soil in place.

You could try one of these shorter (less than 3 feet) grass and grass-like plants that are native to Virgina and will grow in full sun:

Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) (this is not very ornamental but is a drought tolerant, low maintenance turf grass)

Ammophila breviligulata (American beach grass)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly) (when the dark pink seedheads of this grass are lit up by the sun in autumn it is a sight to see!)

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)

If you would like to mix in some lower shrubs, you could try:

Artemisia ludoviciana (Louisiana artemisia)

Hypericum frondosum (Cedarglade st. johnswort)

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)

Vaccinium angustifolium (Late lowbush blueberry) (this will grow in the sun even though our photo shows it in a woodland setting)

As far as attracting rodents (and thus snakes) goes, sorry,we can't make any promises. All sorts of critters live in balance in a healthy ecosystem!


Bouteloua dactyloides


Ammophila breviligulata


Carex texensis


Muhlenbergia capillaris

 

 


Sporobolus heterolepis


Artemisia ludoviciana


Hypericum frondosum


Rosa carolina


Vaccinium angustifolium

 

 

 

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Exposed Tree Roots in Austin
September 04, 2012 - I have a large ash tree with a lot of mud at the top of a sloping yard. I want to build a small retaining wall with the ground leveled above. This would entail covering exposed tree roots with 4-18 in...
view the full question and answer

Connecticut Plants for a Steep Slope
September 09, 2015 - I am looking for the best plants to retain a steep, dry, fully shaded slope in zone 5, Connecticut. It must be deer resistant. Plant height is not a factor.
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for shade from Atlanta GA
May 28, 2012 - I am looking for recommendations for a ground cover. I live in the Atlanta, Georgia area and have a large shady slope on which I would like to use low maintenance/water native ground cover. What wou...
view the full question and answer

Plants to stabilize sandy slope in Massachusetts
September 23, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smartypants, I am working on a small public housing project in Chelmsford, MA, northwest of Boston. We have a steep, sunny and SANDY slope and I am stumped as to what to recommend that wi...
view the full question and answer

Erosion controlling plants for a shady Minnesota lakeside
August 11, 2015 - I live about 50 yards from a lake and there is a steep embankment. Recently someone decided to cut the trees off the embankment and now the dirt is eroding off the embankment as well as off my back ya...
view the full question and answer

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