If you’re looking for an inexpensive and easy way to re-establish vegetation along a waterway, livestakes are for you! Livestake installation is a method of propagation that uses cuttings from a select few species of plants that love to grow along rivers, wetlands, and streams. They merely look like 2-foot sticks to the untrained eye, but livestakes are full of life and ready to start growing when the weather turns warmer.
Cuttings are taken during the dormant season, generally October through March in South Carolina. Each cutting should be about 2 feet long and ½ – 2 inches in diameter. Not every species grown in wet areas will work as a livestake. You’ll have the most luck with black willow (Salix nigra), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), and silky dogwood (Cornus amomum). These can be purchased from local nurseries or harvested on-site if suitable species are present. The latter makes your project even more cost-effective! Install livestakes by inserting 2/3 of the livestake into the ground. It’s important to make sure the livestakes will receive enough water from the stream, either through normal water flow or through capillary action as water travels through the soil up to the livestake. Once these livestakes develop belowground roots and aboveground vegetation, they serve as a buffer along the stream riparian corridor, helping to stabilize soil and prevent erosion. The South Carolina Stream Bank Repair manual provides more details and options to help protect stream riparian areas.