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Plant Identification Is Key in Understanding Land's Health

Posted Dec. 1, 2004

The Noble Research Institute's forage discipline recently hosted a weeklong grazing school. Participants came from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas. Two of our primary areas of discussion were plant identification and land resource management.

Plant identification is very important in understanding the health of the land resource and the direction it is headed. We typically use the term "succession" to imply the direction of health of the land resource, whether it is improving or regressing. Succession is simply a change or shift in the plant community. It is influenced by some factors beyond our control, such as climate, soils and topography.

However, there are a number of tools we can use to influence succession, such as grazing, rest, fire, fence, reseeding, water and mineral placement, machinery, chemicals, etc. Knowing the direction of succession is an important step in managing your land resource, and plant identification is a key component to this process.

The plant community tells us a lot about the range, its condition and the direction it's going. If we have more desirable plants than we did a few years ago, then we are most likely moving in the right direction. If not, then something is wrong, and we need to evaluate our management practices to see what changes are necessary to get back on track.

Managing land resources requires a keen awareness of the ecosystem, as well as practical knowledge of the tools available to manipulate these resources.

There are a few very useful Web sites available to assist you with plant identification:


If you are interested in purchasing some easy-to use-books, I would recommend adding the following to your library:

  • Grasses of Southern Oklahoma & North Texas: A Pictorial Guide by Chuck Coffey and Russell Stevens, available through the Noble Research Institute.
  • Pasture and Range Plants, originally published by Phillips Petroleum Company, available through Fort Hays State University.
  • Field Guide to Oklahoma Plants by Tyrl, Bidwell and Masters, available through the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Oklahoma State University.
  • Wildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi.
  • Oklahoma Wildflowers by Doyle McCoy.
  • Forest Trees of Oklahoma by the Oklahoma Division of Forestry.