(editor..Stream improvements, habitat restoration is vital to maintaining a strong resource. Roseann Balcher discusses several native species native to the Appalachian area)
By Roseann Blacher
Native plants for stream bank regeneration can be the best assistant of habitat restoration available. Some landowners love the thought of a wide green expanse of grass(monoculture) going to their stream or river, but the water-level fluctuations of the riparian area, due to seasonal changes, can seldom be controlled by the non-native grass’s tiny root system.
Better options are to become familiar with native plants of the area and see which stream banks are thriving and which are not. After annihilating the non-native invasives in the area, such as English Ivy, or the dreaded privet, a good way to begin restoration is the “anchor plant”, Leucothoe fontanesiana (Dog-hobble). It is a strong waterside soil retention option that is lower-growing (3-6 feet) and can be a good companion to Rhododendron maximum. They both prefer good drainage, consistent moisture and can withstand colder temperatures, if they are given moderate wind protection…such as companion planting with native Hemlock (my particular favorite) and a good water source…such as your stream or riverbank.
The only downside to Dog-hobble is the toxicity of the spring flowers. If that is not a concern, the deciduous Autumn color of Leucothoe is quite showy against the evergreen rhododendron.
After establishing these natives to your streamside population, you can then begin the process of secondary native plantings to fulfill the particular desire you have developed with your initial project. Fortunately, there is no shortage of great native plant small businesses in the South.
Your first and best first stop in Georgia should be the Georgia Native Plant Society, or GNPS. They are a wealth of information, exceptionally active, knowledgeable, and helpful conservators and even have a resource list on their website: https://gnps.org/. Plus, they hold native plant sales multiple times each year. Become a member and receive discounts at their very popular sales.
Restoring native plant habitat is the best first step to restoring stream habitat for your beloved Brookies, Browns and Rainbows, and there is no time like the present. Fall is the perfect time of year!
“Familiarity with nature never breeds contempt. The more one learns, the more one expects surprises, and the more one becomes aware of the inscrutable.” ~Archibald Rutledge