MOre QuailMore posts

If It's Green in November, Spray It!

Oct 28, 2011

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, nonnative species from invasive 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.

Nonnative 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.


So Anonymous, is it better then to do nothing and sit idely by and let the Bobwhite possibly go the way of the Passenger Pigeon or should we try to do all we can and hopefully allow our grandchildren to have the pleasure of hearing a Bobwhite call? I know what I'm gonna do.

I always enjoy reading your articles. Keep up the great work!

Dear Anonymous, stop laughing. No self-respecting hawk is going to dive into the type of cover you create, if you follow our recommendations. Even during the month in which we had over a foot of the snow on the ground last winter, my quail covey survived......they had overhead cover from shrubs or weeds wherever they sought cover or food. Not that it may not have happened, but I reduced the chances of it happening because of what I have done with habitat.

I've been chomping at the bit wanting to get out and start spot spraying some fescue investations in my NWSG but I've still got some side oats and little blue thats still got some green in it down in the clump. I'm gonna hold off a bit longer as I cant afford to kill any of it out. I have sprayed under some trees that I will be falling for some covey headquarters and downed tree structure areas but I've still got plenty to do. Been hearing some covey calls in the morning and evenings.

Thanks Jerry for your post. We need a cold snap so we can begin spraying! Keep up the great work.

I get a laugh out of some of these articles. I could just imaging me topping trees, spot spraying, disking the timber border, burning my prairie grass at JUST the right time for quail while my work on my 200 acres of prairie grass and timber is being watched by 20+ hawks. I am just attracting great tasting hawk food that I will never see.

The title of my post was pretty broad. My intent was to get readers' attention, not really to suggest that all fescue, or winter wheat for that matter, should be sprayed because its green in November. Fescue has saved lots of topsoil, paid for lots of farms and helped put lots of kids through college and those are all good things. Although there are better grasses for animal performance, the resilience and drought tolerance of fescue give it a place on a portion of the acres of nearly every Missouri cattle farm. But fescue has not been good for wildlife. If quail or other upland game species are a priority, native warm season grasses or other cool-season grasses like timothy, redtop and smooth brome provide better cover and still control erosion. Thanks for your comment - Max.

Are you asking me to spray fescue? Forget it. Fescue is the only thing controlling erosion on my grassy hills.

Related Content

Recent Posts


Wild Fruits of Summer

Jul 06, 2020

Looking for something wild and healthy to do? Berry picking may be the summer adventure for you. Discover where, how, and a tasty recipe in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Bald Eagle

Red, White, and Blue in Nature

Jun 28, 2020

Celebrate red, white, and blue in nature this Independence week in our Discover Nature Notes blog.

Evening Grosbeak bird

Helping Birds

Jun 22, 2020

We are loving our birds these days.  Discover why bird populations are in decline and simple ways you can help in this week's Discover Nature Note.