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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.

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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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Thursday - August 16, 2012

From: Bryan, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Stream Bank Erosion Control for Bryan/College Station
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I live in the Bryan/College Station area and need a ground cover to abate erosion on the bank of an intermittent stream. The bank is shaded. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER:

Sure, Mr Smarty Plants has lots of suggestions.  As a general approach, the best plants to stabilize a bank and prevent erosion are plants like grasses that have fibrous root systems and shrubs and perennials that spread with runners to form thickets.  Here are three previous answers that will give you an idea of some choices.  This one is a very similar question about a stream bed in Bastrop TX.  Here is an answer addressing the banks of the Colorado near Austin, TX.  If the area is more dry and/or if you may have concerns about deer, this answer had that combination.

  I also like to scan native plants that might be a better fit for this specific situation than those suggested previously.  Here is a link to the Blackland Prairies Collection.  These collections can be sorted for attributes of interest.  I selected “grasses or grass-like” and plants that could handle shade or partial shade.  A little bit of reading will get you a large amount of information about specific plants.  For instance, if you need a quick initial cover and serious erosion control, then Andropogon virginicus (Broomsedge bluestem) or Elymus canadensis (Canada wild rye) can be quite effective.  If the bank is truly shaded then perhaps you may want Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass), it will handle most local environments

  Finally, in the spirit of using native plants for what they are good for – it seems to me that selecting and encouraging grasses that are found in stream banks ought to give you well adapted solutions!  These four grasses had specific mention of a stream bank habitat, yet not all of them needed high levels of moisture:
Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)
Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern gamagrass)
Setaria parviflora (Marsh bristlegrass)
Cladium mariscus ssp. jamaicense (Jamaica swamp sawgrass)

 

From the Image Gallery


Broomsedge
Andropogon virginicus

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Eastern gamagrass
Tripsacum dactyloides

Jamaica swamp sawgrass
Cladium mariscus ssp. jamaicense

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