Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Thursday - July 28, 2011

From: lackawaxen, PA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Water Gardens, Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Erosion prevention on shady Pennsylvania stream
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

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 under the oaks and beach trees. There are plenty of deer and other critters about that might complicate the choice.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants suggests that if you have a persistently wet area, consider Juncus effusus (Common rush), a species that will grow in water-saturated soil. I would plant the lower stream bank with sedges, which, unlike most grasses, will thrive in shade. Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) or Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) should form a dense turf that resists soil erosion.  Patches of Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) at this level would provide color.   A bit farther up the bank, I recommend Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) and  Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper).  Either of these will produce a dense ground cover, with Virginia creeper remaining at ground level if there are no nearby trees or shrubs to climb.  Flowering plants to consider include Campanula rotundifolia (Bluebell bellflower), Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower), and Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty).  An understory small tree, Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud) might complement the other species.  If the upper bank is usually quite dry, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick) will create a solid ground cover.

Check out this list of local suppliers for the species recommended above.  Once established, these plantings should solve the problem of erosion threatened by both large and small storms.  The ground covers and sedges are resistant to deer herbivory.

 

From the Image Gallery


Common rush
Juncus effusus

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Bluebell bellflower
Campanula rotundifolia

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Carolina springbeauty
Claytonia caroliniana

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Shade tolerant plants for Waynesville MO
April 09, 2013 - We moved to Waynesville, MO (gardening region 6) and when we bought our house there was a nice looking gardening area in front of the house. It is shaded moderately by a Redwood Tree and was "occupie...
view the full question and answer

Shade-loving native plants for South Carolina
January 08, 2008 - I am looking to incorporate a native plants section in my backyard. Shade seems to be a limiting factor in some parts, especially where I would look to create a natural hedge bordering my neighbor's...
view the full question and answer

Native plants with little sun and northern exposure for New York
April 26, 2006 - I live in a co-op and want to fix up the backyard. The backyard area has a west area to plant with a northern exposure and little sun and I am looking to plant something to cover the area. I would lik...
view the full question and answer

Stumps of fallen oaks in Hurricane Irene from Newton PA
September 03, 2011 - Two large red oaks fell in the woods in our yard in Newtown PA due to Hurricane Irene. The trees have been removed, but the stumps remain. Please can you recommend some fast-growing, attractive, nativ...
view the full question and answer

Michigan native plants for shady, low traffic area
May 10, 2006 - Hello, I am looking for a recommendation for a Michigan native groundcover. I live adjacent to the Rouge River watershed and want to buy the right thing. The location is shady, infrequently walked ...
view the full question and answer

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