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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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Sunday - September 27, 2009

From: Winnsboro, LA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Appropriate riverbed and quail habitat plantings for southwest OK
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr Smarty Pants, I have an area in extreme SW Oklahoma along the Red River. What native plants could I plant that are both appropriate for the sandy/saline soils in the vegetative area of the river bed and appropriate for wildlife especially the bobwhite quail?

ANSWER:

We'll start with what we DON'T know, which is much of anything about bobwhite quail. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we focus on the care, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. So we're going to help you find plants that fit your specifications for the river area and that you also believe will benefit the quail.

We did do a little research, and learned that quail are best in what is called "early succession" areas, which implies abandoned farmland, burned-over areas and other areas not heavily covered with old forests, which would shade out the plants the quail need for food, nesting sites and cover. A very interesting fact we ran across links quail habitat with that of pollinators, including bees. There is global concern about the vanishing pollinators, usually due to habitat destruction and, of course, pesticides. From this, we would surmise that an area that attracted pollinators naturally would also support a quail population. For more information on quail ecology, read this article from Mississipi State University's Natural Resource Enterprise Wildlife Management: Northern Quail.

So to get back to what we can do for you, the first possibility that occurred to us was meadow gardening, in which grasses and both perennial and annual  blooming plants are encouraged. We have a How-To Article on Meadow Gardening that should at least help you start thinking in that direction. Another How-To Article that has excellent information is Wildlife Gardening. As you survey the natural areas you already have, you may realize that a meadow garden is waiting for you and the quail. The meadow garden would involve grasses native to the area, as well as blooming herbaceous plants. Another closer-to-home source of information on wildlife habitat would be from the county extension office for the area in which your land is located. Since you gave us a home location in Louisiana, we searched for Lawton, OK, which was the only town we knew in southwestern Oklahoma. We learned it was in Comanche Co., and from there found the contact webpage for the Comanche County Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. They could help you, or you could use the correct county.

Since we know nothing about the sunlight available in the area, how much moisture is in the soil and how large an area you are planning, we want to give you instructions for finding what you need in our Native Plant Database. You can go to Recommended Species, click on Oklahoma on the map, and then indicate under General Appearance whether you want to search for grasses, herbs (herbaceous blooming plants), shrubs or trees. You can indicate with each search what the light availability is, how moist the soil is and so forth. Then, click on "Narrow Your Search" and you will gt a list of whichever plant type you selected with the characteristics you have specified. 

 

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