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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.

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Sunday - September 29, 2013

From: Godley, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Bunch grasses for labyrinth that are good for livestock
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm designing an outdoor labyrinth that will be in full sun in our black Slidell clay soil here in north central Texas. The area MAY be mowed for hay at a later date (i.e. post-drought). To define the 12-inch-wide borders of the pathways, I am thinking a native perennial bunch grass along with annual wildflowers would be appropriate as well as "fine in case of hay harvest." Would Texas grama and/or hairy tridens would be a good choice? Am I missing another likely candidate for a native, low height, livestock-friendly border plant? Thank you so much!

ANSWER:

What an intriguing project!  You are in luck making your labyrinth in full sun because most grasses grow best in full sun.  The grasses you mentioned as well as the other ones recommended below will all grow in clay; however, you might want to consider some other bunch grasses that are more palatable for livestock.  You can see that the first two, the ones you mention, are both described as being poor grazing for livestock and wildlife.

 Erioneuron pilosum (Hairy tridens)  Texas A&M AgriLife's Plants of Texas Rangelands says that it is "Poor grazing for livestock and wildlife."

Bouteloua rigidiseta (Texas grama)  Texas A&M AgriLife's Plants of Texas Rangelands says that it is "Poor grazing for livestock and wildlife."

The following bunch grasses occur in Johnson County and you can see what the Texas A&M AgriLife's Plants of Texas Rangelands says about their grazing quality.  I've arranged them with the "good grazing" grasses first.

 Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)  Texas A&M AgriLife's Plants of Texas Rangelands says that it is "Good grazing for both livestock and wildlife."

Elymus canadensis (Canada wild rye)  Texas A&M Agrilife's Plants of Texas Rangelands says that it is "Good grazing for livestock. Fair grazing for wildlife."

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)  Texas A&M Agrilife's Plants of Texas Rangelands says that it is "Good grazing for livestock. Fair grazing for wildlife."

Dichanthelium oligosanthes var. oligosanthes (Heller's rosette grass)  Texas A&M AgriLife's Plants of Texas Rangelands says that another closely-related variety, Dichanthelium oligosanthes var. scribnerianum, is "Fair grazing for livestock and wildlife."

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (Silver beard grass)  Texas A&M AgriLife's Plants of Texas Rangelands says that it is "Fair grazing for livestock and wildlife."

Good luck with your project!

 

From the Image Gallery


Hairy woollygrass
Erioneuron pilosum

Texas grama
Bouteloua rigidiseta

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Heller's rosette grass
Dichanthelium oligosanthes var. oligosanthes

Silver beard grass
Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

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