Putting Native Plants to Work

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

acre work

Martin Turner's large cow-calf operation is not typical for Macon County, but the problems he faces are. His grass is mostly fescue, and he hasn't heard a quail call on his place in years.

Turner worked with grassland conservationist Tim Clapp from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Conservation Department employees Elsa Gallagher and Ted Seiler, to make his farm friendlier to both quail and cattle.

On a steep, relatively unproductive hillside, Turner planted strips of pine and native shrubs, including plum, indigo bush and sumac. These shelter quail from predators and provide them with winter forage. The shelterbelts also will protect cattle from bitter winter winds and help prevent his water tank from freezing.

In addition, Turner is converting more than 100 acres of fescue to native warm-season grasses, forbs and legumes. Seeded in spring 2003, with help from EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), his mix includes Indian grass, big and little bluestem and sideoats grama, as well as black-eyed Susan, purple prairie clover, Illinois bundleflower and partridge pea.

Besides benefiting quail, Turner's prairie seeding will increase his management options and give his cow-calf herd a mid-summer rest from fescue, which can be toxic to cattle during hot summer months.

Although the nearest quail covey is still several miles away, Turner hopes that by making a place for them with native grasses, forbs and shrubs, he will eventually entice them to return to his farm.

It's a family affair

In Callaway County, a young family makes native plants the centerpiece of both their landscape and their family activities. Jim and Andrea Kennedy became interested in native plants years ago when they noticed wildflowers growing along Missouri's roadsides.

"At first we didn't know that most of those wildflowers aren't native," Jim said. "As we learned more, it became really special when we saw an area that was all native."

Their research led them to purchase a copy of Julian Steyermark's Flora of Missouri. They accumulated more information about native plants while volunteering at Cuivre River State Park in Troy and during prescribed burn workshops at Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit.

After so much research and hands-on experience, they yearned for a place that could become a life-long restoration project for them and their children. They looked for a property that would give them as much diversity as possible. They soon found a parcel near Readsville.

The 93 acres they manage in common with Andrea's dad, Frank Timmermeier, includes upland

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