Bioengineering Materials

Live stakes and brush mattresses installed in a stream bank stabilization site

Wattle installation

Bioengineering materials installed in a riparian site

Soil Bioengineering is the term used to describe the use of plant material to arrest and prevent slope and stream bank failure and erosion. The roots and stems serve as structural and mechanical elements in a slope protection system. Live cuttings and rooted plants are embedded in the ground in various arrays to serve as soil reinforcements, hydraulic drains and barriers to earth movement. Once established, this living material effectively controls a number of stabilization and erosion control problems by binding the soil with its root system and creating a natural, vegetative cover. Bioengineered sites are self-repairing and have the advantage of blending with natural surroundings.

Ernst Conservation Seeds is an experienced producer of common and specialized live, soil bioengineering materials. We understand the unique needs of bioengineering site construction. Our material is grown, processed and delivered to minimize on-site installation labor and maximize survival and quick establishment.


Bioengineering materials cut and ready for shipment to customers

The bioengineering material in the following paragraphs is dormant, live material. If the material cannot be installed immediately when it arrives at the job site, it must be properly stored. Place material out of direct sunlight in a cool, wet place, such as under straw or burlap. If packaged, open the pallets, boxes and plastic bags so the material can be thoroughly watered. Do not allow the material to dry out. Soaking before planting significantly increases survival and growth rate. Planting is best done during dormancy.

Note: For best survivability, the material should be planted during the dormant season, November 1st--April 30th. We do not guarantee any of our bioengineering material from May 1st--October 31st.

Live Stake and Branch Layering Cross-Sections courtesy of United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Engineering Field Handbook, December 1996, Chapter 16, “Streambank and Shoreline Protection”, pp. 16-13 and 16-20.

Special thanks to John McCullah, Salix Applied Earthcare, for allowing us to use the information in his Bio-Draw software. More information is available at

Stream bank diagram

Stream bank diagram. Click for larger image.

Ernst Conservation Seeds Produces Bioengineering Materials in the Following Fast-Rooting Species:

Botanical NameCommon NameIndicator Region
Cephalanthus occidentalisButtonbushNative Shrub / 1: OBL; 2: OBL; 3: OBL
Cornus amomumSilky DogwoodNative Shrub / 1: FACW; 2: FACW+; 3: FACW+
Cornus sericea (C. stolonifera)Red Osier DogwoodNative Shrub / 1: FACW+; 2: NO; 3: FACW+
Salix discolorPussy WillowNative Shrub / 1: FACW; 2: FACW; 3: FACW
Salix eriocephalaHeart Leaved WillowNative Shrub / 1: FACW; 2: FACW; 3: FACW
Salix exigua ssp interiorSandbar WillowNative Shrub / 1: OBL; 2: OBL; 3: OBL
Salix lucidaShining WillowNative Shrub / 1: FACW; 2: NO; 3: FACW+
Salix purpureaStreamco WillowNaturalized Shrub / 1:NI; 2: FACW; 3: FACW
Salix sericeaSilky WillowNative Shrub / 1: OBL; 2: OBL; 3: OBL
Salix x cottetiiDwarf Bankers WillowNaturalized Shrub / 1: NI; 2: NI; 3: NI
Salix amygdaloidesPeach Leaved WillowNative Tree / 1: FACW; 2: FACW; 3: FACW
Salix nigraBlack WillowNative Tree / 1: FACW+; 2: OBL; 3: OBL
Sambucus canadensisElderberryNative Shrub / 1: FACW-; 2: FACW-; 3: FACW-
Viburnum dentatumArrow WoodNative Shrub / 1: FAC; 2: FAC; 3: FAC
Viburnum lentagoNannyberryNative Shrub / 1: FAC; 2: FAC; 3: FAC+

For more information on the species listed above, refer to the section on Woodland Openings, Partially Shaded Sites & Shrubby Sites Associated with Bioengineering in our catalog, or the Index in the back of the catalog to locate the page number.

Please call for a quote, as each bioengineering job and material selection is unique to a project.