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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.

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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 20, 2009

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native grasses for horses
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have 7ac with big and little bluestem. I'm told big is bad. And my horse eats ground veg and not the bluestem. So I'd love to replant the entire tract with something for the horse, deer, and native critters but don't know what. Was suggested to me tuffalo. But I didn't know if that was good for hill country land, and/or the native critters. Any advice? Thanks.

ANSWER:

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) is considered to be one of the most nutritious of the prairie grasses according to the Forages of Texas - North Central from the Texas AgriLife Research Center and Extension Service at Stephenville. Turffalo is a cultivar of buffalograss developed by Texas Tech University and Frontier Hybrids Engineered Turfgrass. The Wildflower Center has had a plot of Turfallo that we have been testing now for a couple of years.  You can see an assessment of it in the answers to previous Mr. Smarty Plants questions in 2008 and 2009

Your best bet might be to go with a mixture of native grasses rather than try to create a monoculture.  Here are other native grasses that Forages of Texas - North Central considers highly palatable for livestock:

Tripsacum dactyloides (eastern gamagrass)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Their assessment of Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) does not list palatability as one of its assets, rather it is recommended for wildlfe habitat.

You can read more information about horses and native grasses in "Are You Feeding Your Horse Like a Cow?"  A cautionary note—although most native grasses are desirable to feed your horses, there are some grasses and other plants, both native and non-native, that you should avoid for your pasture. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation has compiled a list of Poisonous Plant Considerations.

Native American Seeds in Junction, Texas offers a good variety of native grass seeds and grass seed mixes for sale.


Bouteloua dactyloides

Tripsacum dactyloides

Sorghastrum nutans

Bouteloua curtipendula

 

 

 

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