Discussion in 'Native Habitat Management' started by Native Hunter, Jun 21, 2020.
WHAT???...Kill fescue???...I thought you were the KING of Fescue???
A few things before we take off walking again:
I want to answer a few questions that have been asked and give some more background.
I’m going to rate some plants between low and high in terms of browse preference. This will be based on what I see, and the rating can be very different at other places. For instance, in areas with a shortage of food, deer will readily consume some of the least palatable plants. And there are some regional differences as well. What I rate as low browse preference might be gobbled up quickly somewhere else. For instance, deer will barely touch a pokeweed on my place, but I’ve heard many of you say it is a preferred browse – that’s just the way it is with deer and regional differences. As a general rule, there is an abundance of food in my area relative to deer numbers, and deer are picky eaters here.
My prairie was put in by doing two gly spraying in the spring and then drilling the seed. It was through the CREP program and was fescue pasture before I started.
Pounds of seed per acre are pretty low in this program to hold installation costs down. That keeps the grasses from being too thick and allows some space for native plants to come back from the seedbank. Initially I saw this as a negative, but now I see it as a positive. A high percentage of the forbs that I like in the prairie came from the seedbank. I spent a lot of time initially spot spraying the ones that I didn’t like, and that has helped the overall composition of the plant mix to be more what I prefer.
The prairie has been in roughly 10 years. I’m not taking the time to go into details about the plantings, because not all of the fields were done exactly the same. However, below I will show the introduced species that were planted:
Side Oats Grama (gone within 2 years)
Virginia Wild Rye (barely hanging on at a few low shady spots)
Illinois Bundleflower (gone within 2 years)
Purple Coneflower (still there be not strong)(disking would bring it back)
I’m all for the proliferation of butterflies and bunnies, but I mainly manage for deer. I want my cover to be tall and robust so that deer will use it in daylight. Of course, having lower growing, preferred forbs mixed in is a big plus – food and cover combined.
Managing a prairie is not for everyone. A prairie in my neck of the woods is an early successional habitat, and plants further up the successional ladder (briers, trees, etc.) are constantly trying to overtake it. It takes some work to keep everything going well, and you must enjoy that work or you won’t do it. Basically, I used to be a runner, but now I get my exercise doing habitat work – and love every minute of it.
That’s enough for now. When I come back, we will start the walk again…..
I just keep a patch of it going so that I can gather seed and go spead on dogghr's place while he is laying on the beach and playing golf. He is worried there could be a shortage coming.
Native. I’m torn between wishing you were my neighbor so I could befriend you and learn even more from you and being glad you’re not because all of ‘my’ deer would leave me and go to your place. Love following along on all of your threads. Fascinating. Wish I knew 1/10 of what you know about plants, trees, etc. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.
So, you talk of this thing that you have growing in this prairie called "work" , don't you know that's a main allergen for me and a lot of food plot guys? Anyway, a serious question; doesn't periodic mowing in sections to keep the trees and briars in check work well with this type of planting?
I wish I had you for a neighbor. We could work together like the old farmers around here used to do, and we would both get about three times as much work done as we would on our own.
That is a good question. I think the answer will vary based on the location. For me, the trees are not a big problem, and periodic mowing takes care of them. I also think the deer help take care of tiny trees like maple when they first sprout. They graze them like they do the forbs.
Briers are a bigger challenge. Periodic mowing will take care of where they just occasionally pop up, but if they have established a thick fibrous root system, it takes more to control them. Then the best thing to do is some spot spraying as needed. You could also mow those spot twice a year for several years and control them, but that isn't good for the prairie plants. Another option with briers would be to disk heavily. You would break up the root system and get a flush of different annual plants over the next few years.
Let’s get up and continue walking
First, we will examine an area that was mowed this year in Mid May and see what is taking place about a month later. You can easily see the clumps of native grasses starting to shoot up. We will talk about the different grasses later on, but today, I want to focus on the areas between the grass clumps. This is where the forbs (both annuals and perennials) fill in part of the empty spaces. These empty spaces are like highways where rabbits and other small creature travel, feed and escape predators.
This is one of the things that sets beneficial native grasses apart from introduced species like Johnson Grass. You don’t want a monoculture of grass, and that’s what Johnson Grass will create. It builds a fibrous root system and chokes out everything else. Another difference is that Johnson Grass will just flatten in the winter, but the right native grasses and forbs will stand the winter well and continue to provide valuable cover through the next spring.
Native grasses can also tiller and fill in space, but it happens to a lesser extent than with Johnson Grass. The pictures below show a 10 year old prairie, and you will see that there is still a lot of space between the clumps. At some other places in the fields, the spaces are even greater.
Both the grasses and forbs are important. The grasses provide tall security cover for deer, and the forbs provide food for them and other creatures. Some forbs also get very tall and provide a dual benefit – both food and cover.
The first pictures below is taken from the side, and it appears that we only have grass. But look in the pictures below it where we are looking straight down, and you will see the highways between the grass clumps and some forbs coming up. After we look at these pictures we will discuss each of the forbs we see.
In this first picture you see three forbs. In the middle is Tickseed Sunflower, near the top left is Oxeye Daisy, and at the lower right is one small Carolina Horsenettle plant.
In this next picture you see mostly Partridge Pea with just a little Common Ragweed on the right side of the picture.
Here is a better picture of Common Ragweed:
In this post today we have talked about the difference between Native Grasses and invasive species like Johnson Grass. We also identified five forbs – Tickseed Sunflower, Oxeye Daisy, Carolina Horsenettle, Partridge Pea and Common Ragweed. We will stop now, and when we come back we will talk about the attributes of these five forbs that we identified. After that we will look at pictures of many other forbs growing in the prairie and discuss them.
Thanks for giving me purpose in life.
And yes as you previously said , managing fallow fields can give some nice natural seed establishment. Not as thick as yours of course. You do seriously have to destroy the fescue root mass and it’s allopathic affect on other seeds that would love to establish themselves. And it can be an ongoing slow process to make fescue realize that all seeds matter.
Great thread. You are my hero.
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I would post that picture of the monument to KY31 Fescue, but I know that you have it memorized by now...
And, you are a hero of mine my friend for many reasons....!
Let's get up and start walking again.
Now let’s discuss the plants we have identified in the last post.
Tickseed Sunflower: This is one of my favorite prairie plants, because:
It is a useful, beautiful and a very aggressive annual that holds its place well with the native grasses.
It gets very tall and stands the early winter very well through hunting season.
It is an incredible pollinator plant. When it flowers in the fall it will be covered by a multitude of insects – including soldier beetles which are important insects for chestnut tree pollination.
The seed are important food for lots of different birds – including turkey and bobwhite quail.
This is not a preferred browse plant for deer, but they will occasionally nibble at it. However, the other positive attributes of this plant that I mentioned above make it one of my favorites.
Shown below is a picture of Tickseed Sunflower in the fall where it is coming up between some clumps of CIR Switchgrass.
The next picture is bank coming down to a ditch along the edge of an NWSG field where Tickseed Sunflower has found a spot that it loves. All I did here was kill the fescue, and nature did the rest.
Common Ragweed: This is a very abundant and very useful prairie plant. Here are some facts:
This is a very palatable forb and is usually a medium to high preference browse plant.
It provides good nutritional value. Per the following link common ragweed had greater invitro dry matter digestibility (IVDMD) than both alfalfa an oats. It’s average invitro digestible dry matter is 73%, it’s acid detergent fiber is 25%, and it’s crude protein is 25%.
It is extremely competitive with NWSGs and generally strong each year.
I see it browsed quite a bit on my place but not as much as Giant Ragweed. I will discuss Giant Ragweed and provide pictures in a later post.
On my place it is one of the most abundant annual forb.
The seed are a top notch quail food.
Carolina Horsenettle: First let’s look at a better picture:
Discussion about the plant:
This plant can be a problem in food plots, but it is not abundant or aggressive in my prairie.
It is not a preferred browse plant and has toxic properties.
Some animals and birds will eat the yellow fruits that it produces, and it can spread by seed passing through the digestive tract.
Not a desirable plant, but also not a problem in prairies.
Partridge Pea. First lets look at a better picture that shows it in flower:
Discussion about the plant:
Partridge Pea is one of my favorite plants because of the beauty and other good attributes.
It’s one of the top quail plants. I have read that in the south it can be the most important plant for quail.
The cultivar that I have is extremely aggressive for an annual. After 10 years it is hanging right in there with the native grasses. My planted Partridge Pea gets over 5 feet tall and is much more aggressive than the native PP on my land which barely gets knee high.
With the abundance of flowers it is obviously a good pollinator plant.
I have trail camera pictures of deer browsing it, but it isn’t what I would call a high preference browse plant. However, all of the other great attributes make it very desirable.
This is a non native plant from Eurasia.
It is a low preference browse for rabbit and deer.
Like most plants with flowers, it has some insect value.
It adds some beauty to the prairie but in not a high value plant. However, at my place it isn’t very aggressive, so I have no problem with it popping up occasionally.
The sun is high and it’s getting hot out here in the prairie. We have arrived at the edge of the woods, and this would be a good place to take a break. Maybe under the shade of the mighty oak. We will walk again soon.
Native...I can already tell this is going to be a great thread for folks like me that know less than we should about native plants. Heck...I just figured out last year how to identify ragweed and yes, I notice the deer hammer it. I hope you continue the plant by plant description of both good and bad plants as I find it very useful. I'm all too familiar with the horse nettle. Got it here and there and it's tough to get rid of.
Glad you are enjoying it TC. I will keep the plant pics coming.
Just went thru the plant pics again this morn. I'll now know what I'm looking at when I see oxeye daisy again on my place. Very common but now can see what it looks like in flower. I see you bolded and underlined the name but I don't see any of it in your pics. If you keep adding a few new pics and description with each update, I'm gonna become a whole lot more familiar with these as time goes by. Becomes overwhelming when looking thru a "weed book" when there's literally hundreds and hundreds of plants listed. One bite at a time makes it so much easier! This thread may go in the category of some of Paul Knox's threads on food plots. I'm loving it!
TC, I'm glad you are enjoying the thread. I found a pic of Oxeye Daisy and edited the post above to include it. A little later I will post pictures of another plant that looks very similar to it, except that the flowers are much smaller.
Okay, time to start walking again.
In the last post, I mentioned a weed called Giant Ragweed. This is a plant that is not abundant on my place, but there is enough of it that it is significant. First let’s look at some pictures. In the first picture below, you will see a photo I took where deer have browsed the plant pretty hard. This is noteworthy, because this location is at the edge of a food plot that has several different kinds of clover, chicory and alfalfa. Yes, the food plot species are eaten well, but the Giant Ragweed is likewise browsed.
The next picture shows the leaf.
This next picture shows Giant Ragweed next to Common Ragweed. Giant is at the top of the picture and Common at the bottom:
Facts about Giant Ragweed:
High preference deer browse – even better than Common Ragweed on my place.
I have heard of this plant becoming invasive at some places in the north, but I haven’t seen that here. Also from what I’ve heard, I think it is lower growing here – although, I have seen it 7 or 8 feet high.
It competes well with tall NWSGs and makes some good cover mixed in with them.
Seed are a prime food source for Quail, Turkey and other birds
Now let’s look at another plant that we haven’t discussed yet. If you think the following plant somewhat resembles soybeans, I agree, and its value would almost rival that of soybeans.
Most rabbit hunters are very familiar with this plant, because they spend a lot of time picking the sticky little seeds off their clothing after a day in the field. The plant I’m talking about is Tick-trefoil (aka Beggar’s Lice) a member of the pea family. There are many variations of this plant, and they are know as Desmodium species. The one on my place is Smooth Tick-trefoil.
First let’s look at three pictures. The first picture is the plant at a young stage in the spring. The second picture shows the purple flowers that appear in late summer. In this picture it is mixed in with Partridge Pea at the edge of my property. The field across the grassy lane is a soybean field on my neighbor’s place. The third picture is a close up at the same spot.
Facts about the plant:
This is an incredible wildlife plant.
It is a highly preferred browse plant for deer. The nutritional value of this plant is close to that of soybeans.
The seed are a major food source for quail.
It is an aggressive perennial competitor that holds its ground with NWSG.
Mine came out of the seedbank. It is not something that I planted, but it is something I would plant if I didn’t have it.
All this walking has made me tired. We have made it down to the brook that runs the middle of the property, and Mother Nature has provided us with a log to set on while we soak our feet and eat the pears that we brought to snack on. We will walk again soon.
Really enjoying this. Beggars lice is something I rarely see anymore in GA and SC. Only on really well managed pine plantations do I still see it. When I was a kid we always had it stuck to us.
Really enjoying this thread Native
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