The partridge pea is an annual reseeding legume that grows 1 to 5 feet tall. It grows well almost anywhere and in all soil types. It provides excellent forage for livestock, along with good cover for quail and other wildlife.
Prairie rosinweed is a 3- to 10-foot-tall native perennial that gets its name from the rosinlike sap on broken or cut stems. The stem resembles huge, spade-shaped basal leaves. In summer, daisylike flowers with 25 or more petals grow in small clusters at the top of the plant. It has a deep taproot that makes it hearty during dry years.
The sawtooth sunflower is a member of the sunflower family. It is a perennial that grows 3 to 12 feet tall. It produces flowers in the summer months, and livestock will eat it.
Southeastern wildrye is a good cool-season forage. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service says southeastern wildrye has a high crude protein of up to 19%, low neutral detergent fiber (45% to 55%), and low acid detergent fiber (25% to 35%) on unfertilized stands. If haying, it can produce up to 3 tons per acre. Rotational grazing is recommended in order to maintain forage quality. NRCS also points out that high innate nutritional content makes southeastern wildrye a great cool-season option for those interested in a year-round grazing system that uses only native species.
Tickseed sunflowers tend to grow in disturbed ground and love the edges of agricultural fields. They prefer damp, sunny areas, but can tolerate some shade and drought. These annual plants tend to form large colonies as they reseed. They often are found along roads and in fallow fields. They produce yellow flowers in summer.
TOO PRETTY TO EAT
Believe it or not, this beauty — the prairie coneflower — is tasty and nutritious to all livestock during the early stage of plant growth and development. It is considered a desirable spring browse plant for large animals, while the seed of prairie coneflower is preferred by several species of upland birds and small mammals.
Livestock graze on Virginia wildrye from fall through early spring before it produces its characteristic, bristled seed head. It also may be cut for hay. However, grazing and haying should be deferred after the plant goes to seed. The seed heads often are heavily infected with ergot, which causes toxicity problems in livestock. Grazing management is key.
The yellow fox sedge is a perennial plant that reaches 3 feet tall. It is easily identified with its tight tufts of leaves and flowering culms. The slender culms are light green, 3-angled, stiff and rough. The alternate leaves are found at the lower half of the culms. It prefers full-to-partial sun, wet-to-moist conditions and various kinds of soil, including loam and clay-loam.
Annual lespedezas are good for forage, cover or nurse crops, and as temporary cover for erosion control. They should be grazed or cut for hay when in half-bloom stage. However, farmers should leave a 3-inch stubble to ensure regrowth. Lespedezas are good companion forage with bunch-type grasses such as timothy, orchardgrass and tall fescue.
NOT AN UGLY WORD
Fescue. The mere mention of it in some farming circles brings about a scowl. However, not all fescue is bad. Take for instance the cluster fescue. It is a short, cool-season fescue that is green when many other natives are dormant. It prefers dry, mostly sunny areas. Sow seed with forbs.