En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Thursday - March 20, 2008

From: Wills Point, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs, Trees
Title: Denying cows access to flowers through fence
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What flowers can I plant that cows will not eat? They stick their heads through the fence and eat anything they can reach. I would like to plant something in the fence row that will not hurt the cows but that they dislike. These are neighbors cows and not mine.

ANSWER:

I think the key word there is going to be "reach." Cows are ruminants, and have stomachs divided into four parts to help them digest the very rough food available to them, with lots of cellulose in it. Their ordinary food source would be grass, but dairy cows are fed silage (fermented grasses, alfalfa or corn), hay and corn, although corn is now scarcer, because it's being used to make ethanol. You don't even want to know what they get fed in feedlots. Obviously, what your neighbors have are cows that are expected to eat grass and maybe a nice snack of clover in their field. The grass supply may be low or they may just be shopping about for a bit of variety when they get to your fence. Wouldn't you prefer a nice tender bloom to grass? If you were a cow. Since they can digest all that really tough stuff, it's unlikely we're going to find a cow resistant plant, or even one they won't at least try.

So, the first thing we would suggest is that you plan to move your decorative garden plants far enough away from the fence that the cows can't reach them. Between that garden and the fence, a row of some fairly fast-growing native shrubs will provide both protection and a screen for the fence. They still will probably try to nibble the shrubs (the grass/flowers/shrubs are always greener on the other side), but if it's something pretty tough and hopefully tasteless (to a cow) maybe they'll decide to go back to grass.We're going to suggest some shrubs that can be attractive from your side and hopefully unappetizing on the cow's side. When you get down to it, though, a cow will eat just about anything, so you might want to measure how far a cow can get its head through your fence, and then allow for a shrub to grow in circumference, and plant it far enough away that the cow can't even get at the shrub. The bad thing about this is that it reduces your own garden size, but hopefully it's only one side of your yard that shares a fence with the cows.

Shrubs or shrubby flowering plants that have some blooms or interesting leaf colors are Lantana urticoides (West Indian shrubverbena, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow), Rhus copallinum (winged sumac) and Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum). Shrubs that are more solid background for shorter plantings of flowers are Morella cerifera (wax myrtle), and Ilex vomitoria (yaupon). Any one of these or a mixture can be used as a decorative screening hedge. Just remember-measure how far the cow can reach and put the plants farther than that!


Lantana urticoides

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Rhus copallinum

Viburnum acerifolium

Morella cerifera

Ilex vomitoria

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Keeping squirrels out of pecan tree from Garland TX
August 17, 2013 - My yard is covered in green pecans with one bite eaten by squirrels. How do I keep squirrels out of my pecan tree?
view the full question and answer

Theory for live oak shoots from Austin
August 25, 2011 - More on preventing suckers from coming up around live oaks in Austin. I too have been puzzled - why some live oaks have shoots, and not others. Posting here says different varieties have suckers. ...
view the full question and answer

Would like fast growing evergreen trees in Austin, TX.
October 31, 2012 - Hi, We're moving to Southwest Austin and would like to plant a cluster of pines (or cypress trees?) or other fast growing, large and tall evergreen trees. Any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Decorative Trees for Scenic Bench in Fairhope IL
June 10, 2012 - I am looking for a recommendation for a pair of small trees (does not grow taller than 18-20 feet) that can provide shade on either side of a stone bench. The site is in full sun, western exposure an...
view the full question and answer

Should I Prune Oak Trees in February in Wisconsin?
February 17, 2011 - I need to cut some oak branches but am worried about oak wilt. You told an earlier questioner not to cut in February. I live in Wisconsin and it has been very cold lately. Am I okay to cut the bran...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center