The look of the landscape changes dramatically after the first killing freeze: leaves fall from deciduous trees and shrubs, annual plants die, and native perennial forbs and grasses settle into dormancy. At least that’s the way the season should wind down in Missouri. Plants that remain green at this time of year likely come from someplace else and may mean trouble.
Fall is a great time to be afield. It’s also a great time to spot invasive plants that you might not see during spring and summer. Because several of the plants that cause headaches for quail managers remain green well into the fall and early winter, fall can also be a good time to use herbicides to control some species.
Low-growing rosettes, like these of common teasel (above), remain green well into fall. Musk thistle is another problematic biannual plant that forms first-year rosettes.
Tall fescue clumps remain green throughout fall and early winter.
The extent of bush and Japanese honeysuckle invasions becomes apparent in fall.
The negative impacts of invasive, non-native species from Asian carp to zebra mussels are among the most daunting challenges that conservationists face. Although it’s pure guesswork, I’d bet that as much as a third of the time and resources invested in quail management go toward fighting problem plants.
Non-native plants that become problems do so because they have some competitive advantage over native plants. Some flood the landscape with truly astounding numbers of seeds. Some bolt early in the season or grow faster, simply shading out desirable native plants. Others practice chemical warfare to ward off grazers or make the soil inhospitable to native plants. Whatever their specific advantage may be, the result is that they crowd out the native vegetation that quail need for food, shelter and nesting. Many of these plants also quickly colonize and fill bare patches that young broods need to move and feed effectively. Those that are unpalatable or even toxic to native insects reduce the amount of food the landscape produces to feed hungry broods.
Learn to identify the invasive plants in your area. The sooner you find them, the cheaper and easier it will be to control them. Check out our Invasive Plant Management section (listed in Related Information below) to find descriptions and control recommendations for many of our problem plants. You can learn about all sorts of invasive species by following the external link to the Invasive and Exotic Species of North America website listed under “External Links” below.