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Monday - May 21, 2012

From: Syracuse, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildlife Gardens, Erosion Control, Shrubs
Title: Shrubs and small trees for a slope in NY
Answered by: Anne Bossart


We are looking for a living wall made of shrubs / small trees - no more than 25' for the top of a steep creek bed. We are looking for the best erosion preventing types.


Generally speaking, plants with fibrous root systems or those that spread using stolons , such as Alnus serrulata (Hazel alder) are the best for holding a bank and resisting erosion.

Although you do not indicate anything about your conditions (light exposure and soild moisture) you can search our Native Plant database for likely candidates using the Combination Search function.  If you select: New York, shrubs, both the 6-12 ft and 12-36 ft sizes and then select your specific conditions, the database will generate a list of plants that occur in your area that meet those criteria.  Each plant on the list is linked to a detailed information page with images that will give you the information you need, even though you cannot sort specifically for "erosion preventing shrubs less than 25 ft in height".  For instance, the entry for the alder calls it "A multiple-trunked, suckering shrub, 12-20 ft. tall, with a picturesque habit and shiny gray-brown bark. Summer foliage is dark green and glossy, becoming yellow, tinged with red, in fall."  It is adapted to all light conditions, so as long as your site is moist enough, it would be a good choice.  Look for terms like "suckering, thicket-forming, or colony-forming" in the descriptions.

Some other plants to consider are:

Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush)

Calycanthus floridus (Eastern sweetshrub)

Cornus racemosa (Gray dogwood)

Ilex glabra (Inkberry)

Rhus glabra (Smooth sumac)

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (Common elderberry)

Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry)

By choosing a variety of native plants of differing sizes and forms you will create not just a living wall, but one that is attractive throughout the seasons and offers wildlife habitat, bringing your property to life with songbirds and butterflies.



From the Image Gallery

Smooth alder
Alnus serrulata

Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Eastern sweetshrub
Calycanthus floridus

Gray dogwood
Cornus racemosa

Ilex glabra

Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Viburnum lentago

More Erosion Control Questions

Plants for erosion control along creek that often floods
May 26, 2010 - 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 trie...
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Grass for erosion control
July 19, 2008 - I have a very shaded sloped back yard. I have not been able to get grass to grow due to the shade. There are approximately twenty 30-40 ft. Oaks in the yard. The yard slopes toward the house. I wo...
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Plants to grow in sandy shade with steep slope
August 14, 2014 - I'm a very experienced gardener but I'm completely stumped on this one. We live among the dunes in SW Michigan. Our yard mostly consists of Ammophila breviligulata and Asclepias syriaca bisec...
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Will not cutting grass make its roots stronger?
May 27, 2009 - I live on a lake that has a hill. There is some problem with erosion on the hillside. Our association wants us to not cut the grass to stop the erosion. How does not cutting the grass help the roots g...
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Restoring tornado-damaged property in Alexander City AL
January 29, 2012 - Dear Mr Smartypants, We were struck by the outbreak of tornadoes last spring and our wonderful woods are now unsightly sloping pastures with erosion problems.. many stumps and coils of roots. We are...
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