Creekside plantings

The riparian buffer along Vine Creek

The term riparian buffer refers to the vegetation next to a creek. Depending on the size of the stream an appropriate buffer may be 30 ft or more in width.  The buffer should include trees, shrubs, grasses and other plants. The plants directly adjacent to the stream are especially important in protecting the streambanks from erosion. Plants further back help control flooding and improve water quality in the stream. The diagram at the left describes the benefits of the different regions in the riparian buffer.

Streambank challenges

The section of Vine Creek starting at Barmouth is very prone to streambank erosion.  The bank is extremely steep in some places.  Large surges of water come into the creek after storms. 

Trees like the one shown at the left bear witness to the historical erosion that has taken place in this area--much of this box elder's root system is now exposed. The tree is still alive and doing its job of slowing down the water in the creek, but for how long?

This image is less dramatic but notice the wide band of exposed tree roots adjacent to the stream. This shows how high the fast-moving water frequently rises along the stream. If the streambank erosion continues, these trees will look like the one above in a few years.  

What can we do? 

First, removal of any vegetation along the creek should be avoided. Seedlings of trees like box elder that appear along the banks should be protected and encouraged to grow. Trees and shrubs like willow, birch, dogwood and viburnam are being planted near the banks.  

Besides planting trees near the banks, volunteers are helping to put in appropriate shrubs, grasses, sedges and other flowering plants near the streambanks. But the erosion of the banks is in large part due to the stormwater that comes from much further up the watershed.  To control this erosion, the water that comes from the streets, driveways and yards in the watershed needs to be reduced, slowed down, and cleaned of sediment as much as possible.  Please read about how proper management of swales and trees upstream can help prevent the erosion of Vine Creek. 

Widening the riparian buffer along Vine Creek: Improving water quality, resistance to flooding, and wildlife habitat

In collaboration with the Lower Merion Conservancy, FOCHT members and volunteers planted shrubs, grasses and herbaceous flowering plants in an area between the rock path and Vine Creek in early May of 2020.  The area had been mowed for many years, so many species adapted to mowing are present, including grasses, clover, etc.  The vegetation in the area was disturbed as little as possible in putting in the new plants. 

The new planting will be maintained by trimming the grass and other plants around the new plants during the rest of the year, to help them get established.  New plants will be watered if it doesn't rain for a week or more.  Once the new plants are established the only maintenance required will be removal of invasive species that may encroach.  This area will become a buffer for the creek and great habitat for wildlife.  

You may have noticed that the creekside planting was fenced off during the winter.  This was done to prevent deer from destroying the young plants.  The CD's attached to the fence are to alert birds to the fencing, which they might not see otherwise. 

In spring, after things greened up and the deer can find plenty to eat again, the fencing is removed.