Relative rooting depths of native grasses and amenity grasses with potential for use on roadsides in New England

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Erosion is a significant problem on highway embankments in Rhode Island. At present, a mixture of red fescue (Festuca rubra L.), perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), and kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) is planted to stabilize the soil. However, only the red fescue survives long term on slopes. Red fescue is shallow-rooted, leading to sod sloughing after heavy rains. The objective of this study was to compare the rooting depth, plant height, and adaptation to roadside conditions of 16 native grasses and five amenity grasses with red fescue to identify species that could be used to reduce sod sloughing. Research was conducted from May 2006 through Aug. 2009 in the greenhouse at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston and on the shoulder of state Route 4 in North Kingstown, RI. The cool-season grasses smooth brome (Bromus inermis Leyss. ssp. inermis), Pumpelly's brome [Bromus inermis Leyss. ssp. pumpellianus (Scribn.) Wag- non], Canadian wildrye (Elymus canadensis L.), Virginia wildrye (Elymus virginicus L.), silky wildrye (Elymus villosus Muhl. ex Wild.), eastern bottlebrush (Elymus hystrix L.), perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea L.) and the warm-season grasses little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash] and purple lovegrass [Era- grostis spectabilis (Pursh.) Steud.] were similar in height to red fescue while rooting significantly more deeply. Of these 10 species, little bluestem, purple lovegrass, and tall fescue showed the best survival on the roadside.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal