Planting Native Grass for Wildlife Habitat

Creating better habitat for wildlife has become more important as natural lands have been lost or converted for other uses. Of course, habitat is always relative to the animal we are discussing — because quail habitat is not the same as duck habitat. Native grasslands have been one of the hardest hit plant communities in the United States, so animals that use this area have been highly impacted. But, native grass can be planted and re-established for grassland-using wildlife species.

When it comes to good-for-wildlife grasses, native grasses are of course the only way to go. Good grasses over much of the Great Plains would be species such as big bluestem, little bluestem, Indiangrass, sideoats grama, and switchgrass. Switchgrass really works good in drainages and wetter areas within grasslands. Also, if you want the cream of the crop grass try some eastern gamagrass.

All native grasses are quite palatable to livestock, so you will have to watch the grazing pressure, especially during establishment, but eastern gamagrass is like candy to them. White-tailed deer are said to like it eastern gamagrass, but very few landowners have this grass species on their property because of past overgrazing. However, I’ve seen gamagrass growing over 7 foot in height!

If you want to kick-start some beneficial forbs for upland birds and deer, then I’d also recommend planting some Illinois bundleflower, partridge pea, Englemann daisy, maxmilian sunflower, and some purple praire clover.

Keep in mind that native grass seed is expensive, but much better for wildlife and even cattle grazing over the long run. You can get more information from or Also, some of these places have prepared grass/forb seed mixes that are ready to go.

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