Georgia Gardener Newsletter Design Tip: September 6, 2007
|Landscaping River, Stream and Lake Banks
A stream with natural vegetation
There is something soothing about living near water. Whether it's a flowing stream or a lovely lake, the water seems to
bring about a sense of calm. There are, however, state mandated rules that govern our rivers, lakes and streams. Specifically,
all creeks, streams, lakes and rivers unless they are contained entirely on the property of a single landowner fall under
the jurisdiction of the state. Almost all of these bodies of water (with some exceptions that I won't detail here) are
required to have a minimum buffer of natural vegetation of 25 feet or 50 feet if they contain trout.
In some localities, these buffers may be larger (check with your county planning office). You can read the state regulations
in this 22 page document.
Why Have Buffers?
The rules for buffers are in existence for several very good reasons:
Unfortunately, some people are unaware of the rules and often disturb these critical buffers during construction or in
the process of landscaping or other activities. Also, within densely populated areas such as metro Atlanta most of the
vegetation that I see within buffers is not natural but instead consists of a mix of non-native invasive plants. The
most common invasives that I see in buffers are:
- Buffers reduce erosion and a resulting build up of silt
- Buffers slow down runoff and help reduce flooding
- Buffers capture pollutants that might contaminate the water
- Buffers provide habitat for many plants, fish and other animals
It is preferable to have native vegetation on banks and in buffers, in fact the state recommends it. The best
natives to use are those that naturally occur in such areas and have a suckering habit with a spreading root system.
So, if you have the non-native invasive plants listed above on your bank or buffer, I highly recommend that you eliminate them.
However, the elimination process for
plants in such areas is different from removal from the rest of the landscape (see below).
- Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense)
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Nepalese Browntop (Microstegium vimineum)
- Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea)
- Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
|Lawn is not a good bank/buffer plant||Privet-choked buffer|
Eliminating Invasives from Banks and Buffers
Remember, one of the most critical functions of a bank and buffer is to hold the slope and surrounding soil from collapsing into
the waterway which has all kinds of undesirable consequences. Therefore, you do not want to disturb the bank or surrounding buffer when
removing invasive plants. Here are some suggestions:
If plants resprout, treat them again until they don't return.
Once plants like ivy and honeysuckle are dead, you can cut the above ground vines and remove them from the area leaving the roots to hold but decay in the soil.
Leaving the root systems of invasive shrubs or trees intact will allow the bank to be stable and the soil held until replacement plantings take root.
- To eliminate shrubs like privet, cut the plant low to the ground and paint the stump immediately with undiluted glyphosate
(Roundup®) or triclopyr (Brush-B-Gon®).
- To eliminate ivy, honeysuckle or herbaceous plants, spray the foliage with the chemicals above at the recommended dilution.*
- To eliminate bamboo, cut the plant to the ground and spray the new foliage that emerges.*
*Most chemicals are not labeled for use near or in aquatic environments. If you find you can't spray without drift into the
water, switch to using a product called Rodeo®. Always follow the labels when spraying and do not get these herbicides onto
Native Plants for Shady Banks and Buffers
|Doghobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana)||Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)|
|Maple leaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)||Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)|
|Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)||Netted Chain Fern (Woodwardia areolata)|
Other natives for shady banks and buffers: Smooth Viburnum (Viburnum nudum), Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima),
Fothergilla (Fothergilla spp), Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and Rivercane (Arundinaria gigantea).
Native Plants for Sunny Banks and Buffers
|Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)||Ironweed (Vernonia altissima)|
|Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)||Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)|
|Red Maple (Acer rubrum)||Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)|
Other natives for sunny banks and buffers: River Birch (Betula nigra), Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis),
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Black Willow (Salix nigra) and Alder (Alnus serrulata).
If you want more information and even more extensive lists of native plans for banks and buffers, visit this pdf document on the
web site of the
Georgia Native Plant Society.
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