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Number 24

Herbaceous plants are typically sunloving, non-woody plants that occupy


fields, road-sides and clearings. While
common in large openings, they may
be a limiting factor to woodland wildlife,
particularly wild turkey and ruffed
grouse. This publication describes
methods for maintaining
and
establishing these valuable sources of
food and cover for wildlife.
Herbaceous plants include a wide
variety of grasses and forbs. Forbs
are broad-leaf plants often referred to
as wildflowers or weeds. Natural and
cultivated herbaceous plants are
valuable sources of food (plant and
insect) and cover for many wildlife
species. Herbaceous plants include
both annuals and perennials. Annuals
must reseed each year while
perennials persist 2 or more years.
The frequency, timing, and extent of
vegetation management will largely
determine the mix of plants within a
clearing.

MAINTAIN EXISTING
OPENINGS
Distributed in fherance of
the acts of Congress of
May 8 and June 30, 1914.
Employment and program
opportunities are offered
to all people regardless of
race, color, national origin,
sex, age, or disability.
North Carolina State
University, North Carolina
A & T State University, US
Department of Agriculture,
and local governments

Establishing clearings and fields can


be costly. Maintain openings on log
decks, old home sites, abandoned
fields and other unused areas adjacent
to woodlands before creating new
clearings.
The following methods
provide cost-effective maintenance for
clearings:

Mowing and Brush Chopping


Periodic
mowing
controls
woody
vegetation
that naturally overtakes
abandoned fields and pastures. Best
results are achieved using a rotary
mower pulled by a tractor on a 1-5 year
interval.

Disking
Disking tends to promote more annuals
than mowing because bare soil is
exposed and more weed seeds can
become established. Unlike farming
operations, disking for wildlife is not
aimed at uprooting and turning under all
existing plant matter. Vary the disking
intensity to rejuvenate existing stems and
expose bare soil for plant germination.
Plant response to disking will vary by
season.

Herbaceous Plants Encouraged


by Seasonal Disking
PLANT

SPRING

SUMMER FALL

Blackberries
X

X
X

Pokeweed
Ragweed

X
X

Partridge Pea
Beggarweed

WINTER

Modified from J. L. Landers and B. S. Mueller.

Experiment with disking times to achieve


a desirable plant mix for your site.
North Carolina
Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina State University
College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
College of Forest Resources

Page 2

Disking and mowing are ideal for partial


treatment of clearings and fields. Strip
mowing or disking promotes cover adjacent
to tender herbaceous regrowth. Habitat
components like food and cover in close
proximity promote the health and survival of
young quail and other early successional
wildlife. The figure below illustrates a typical
three year rotation system that provides
succulent forbs and grasses adjacent to
older protective cover.

1st Year

3rd Year

Daylighting
Herbaceous strips are best created along
existing fire lines, old woods roads, utility
rights-of-way, and haul or skid roads. On
woodland roads or similar strip openings,
daylight or remove trees to a width that
permits full sunlight to reach the ground.
The objective is to have herbaceous cover
in the center strip or the travel portion of a
road, and allow the daylighted edges to
resprout to a shrubby or brushy stage.
Daylighting promotes protective cover and
plant diversity for wildlife.

2nd Year
15 - 75

15 - 75

Simplified Layout of Strip Mowing/Disking Plan

Selective Herbicide Treatment


Herbicides are one of the most effective and
labor saving methods of controlling woody
growth. Selective spraying, wicking or
injecting of individual trees and shrubs can
maintain desired herbaceous plants. Consult
with your local extension agent, wildlife
biologist
or
pesticide
supplier
for
recommendations on the appropriate
herbicide for your situation and local
conditions. Always follow label directions.

N.C. Cooperative Extension Service

Daylighted Road

Prescribed Burning
Prescribed burning is the least costly, most
versatile wildlife management tool. In open
fields and
mature, sparse pine stands
prescribed fire increases the yield and quality of
herbaceous plants, especially
legumes.
Prescribed fire conducted on a one-to-two year
interval favors herbaceous plants by exposing
soil for germination, releasing nutrients and
reducing shade from young trees and shrubs.

Working With Wildlife # 24 - Herbaceous Plants for Wildlife

Page 3

LEGUMES

CLOVERS

Kobe Lespedeza
Bobwhite Soybean
Korean Lespedeza
Lathco Flatpea
Partridge Pea

Alsike Clover
Red (Crimson) Clover
Ladino Clover

ANNUALS

GRASSES

Buckwheat
Soybeans
Wheat
Millet
Corn
Oats
Rye

Big Bluestem
Indiangrass
Orchardgrass
Switchgrass
Atlantic Coastal Panicgrass
Ryegrass

Establishing Herbaceous
Plants
When selecting the proper plant for
wildlife, consider target species, location,
soil types, and planting season. Always
soil test and prepare the seedbed before
establishment. Most forest sites are acidic
and will require lime and, phosphorus. In
the absence of a soil test, apply 50 - 100
lbs. of lime per 1000 square feet. Apply
10 lbs. of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 1000
square feet in spring and fall for best
results.
The table at right provides information on
perennial mixtures and general planting
seasons. Planting dates vary by region
and site - always consult your local
extension agent, soil conservationist or
wildlife biologist for establishment
procedures and planting dates.

Perennial
Mixtures
Switchgrass
White Clover

Rate/

Season

1000 sq.

1.8 - 2.6 oz. Spring


.75 oz.. or Fall

Lathco Flatpea
Italian Ryegrass

11 oz.
7.5 oz..

Spring
or Fall

Orchardgrass
Ladino or Red
Clover

5.5 oz.
.75 oz.

Spring
or Fall

Orchardgrass,
Crownvetch, and
Korean
Lespedeza

5 .5 oz..
2.9 oz..
5.5 oz..

Spring
or
Fall

Orchardgrass
Alfalfa

2.2 oz..
3.7 oz.

Spring or
Fall

Prepared by:
Edwin J. Jones, Department Extension Leader,
Mark A. Megalos, Extension Forestry Specialist,
Scott J. Phelps, Extension Associate

N.C. Cooperative Extension Service

Working With Wildlife # 24 - Herbaceous Plants for Wildlife

Page 4

Cost share assistance may be available through the Stewardship Incentive Program for
these practices. See your Wildlife Biologist, Forester, or Extension Agent for more
information about the Forest Stewardship Program, planting dates and
techniques suitable for your area.
References:
Bobwhite Quail Management: A Habitat Approach. J.L Landers and B.S. Mueller.
Tall Timbers Research Sta. and Quail Unlimited.
Wildlife and Prescribed Burning. D. Hayes, R. Richards, and E. J. Jones. 1994.
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service AG - 457.

Other Wildlife Notes Available:


No. 1 - Endangered Species
No. 14 - Snags and Downed Logs
No. 2 - Eastern Gray Squirrel
No. 15 - Managing Edges for Wildlife
No. 3 - White-tailed Deer
No. 16 - Building Songbird Boxes
No. 4 - Songbirds
No. 17 - Woodland Wildlife Nest Boxes
No. 5 - Wild Turkey
No. 18 - Low Cost Habitat Improvements
No. 6 - Wood Duck
No. 19 - Pools for Amphibians
No. 7 - Cottontail Rabbit
No. 20 - Hummingbirds and Butterflies
No. 8 - Bobwhite Quail
No. 21 - Bats
No. 9 - Ruffed Grouse
No. 22 - Owls
No. 10 - Black Bear
No. 23 - Managing Beaver Ponds
No. 11 - Raccoon
No. 24 - Herbaceous Plants for Wildlife
No. 12 - Mourning Dove
No. 25 - SIP Wildlife Opportunities
No. 13 - Wildlife Terms

FOREST STEWARDSHIP
a cooperative program for
improving and maintaining all of the
resources on private forestland
11-94-4M-WWW-24
N.C. Cooperative Extension Service

Working With Wildlife # 24 - Herbaceous Plants for Wildlife