Native grasses - soil stabilization

Native grasses' roots grow much deeper than nonnative grasses, stabilizing soils.

Smooth brome

  • Root system reaches 10-15 inches in depth.
  • Plant height is 2-3 feet.

Kentucky bluegrass

  • Root system reaches 6-8 inches in depth.
  • Plant height is about one foot.

Sideoats grama

  • Root system reaches to five feet in depth.
  • Plant height is 12-18 inches.

Big bluestem

  • Root system reaches down to nine feet in depth.
  • Plant height is 4-8 feet.

Grasses introduced from Europe and Asia have been traditional used to establish vegetative cover on roadsides in the Midwestern United States. However, many experts are now specifying native grasses for critical area seedings.

While they establish quickly, introduced grasses frequently deteriorate when planted on poor soils. Often their sod opens up and weeds invade.

Introduced grasses may provide good erosion control under favorable soil and moisture conditions.

Because they develop very deep root systems, native grasses provide very good long-term erosion control. And, they will often grow on poor soils because they can gain access to nutrients and water that shallower rooted grasses cannot reach. Native grasses are therefore desirable for stabilizing soils.

Their drawback is that they establish somewhat slowly. Cover crops may be seeded with them to provide short-term erosion control while the native grasses establish. Mulching newly planted sites is also a good idea.