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

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Saturday - July 26, 2008

From: Broxburn, England
Region: Other
Topic: Non-Natives, Shrubs
Title: Natural barrier for sheep in England
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi I am trying to find a plant that sheep will not eat to use as a natural barrier to keep sheep out of my R/C model flying clubs flying field.It will have to be a couple of feet tall and be a long lived plant.As you can probably tell I am not a gardener but I would like to use some kind of natural barrier to stop them invading and creating the mess they leave behind.

ANSWER:

We are flattered that you sent your e-mail across the Atlantic to ask for help from Austin, Texas. However, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use, care for and propagation of plants native to North America. We have no list of native shrubs for your part of England in our Native Plant Database, and no knowledge of the weather, soil and amount of rain you might get. But, since you went to the effort, we will at least see if we can find something to suggest you do about the sheep. You understand, sheep are not an altogether popular subject in some parts of Texas, where ranchers felt the sheep ate the grass down so low the cattle couldn't get at it. So, once upon a time around here, doing something about the sheep usually involved shotguns. We don't recommend that.

We did some research and don't know much more than we did when we started. Are these your sheep, or is your model flying club field in someone else's sheep pasture? Apparently, even though they are ruminants and generally graze, they will also browse shrubs as they go. And unless we're thinking about "counting sheep", we believe that sheep can leap over a short bush barrier if they don't eat it. It would appear that you need to deny sheep to the area with some artificial barrier, which may include fencing or simply closing off an enclosed area in which the sheep can stay. If you lived around here, we would recommend Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita), a holly sometimes called the "babysitter plant" because farmers used to build fences out of it to keep the coyotes away from the lambs. It is one thick, thorny, mean bush, let us tell you. It is, however, basically a desert plant which likely would not survive long in England.

We really don't think plants are the answer to your problem, although we hate to say that. We feel you are going to have to consider some form of fencing or move your flying field out of range of the sheep.

 

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