Spotlight on Buckbrush
Feature article from the Central Grasslands Forum - Winter 2015 edition
Fara Brummer, Area Extension Livestock Systems Specialist, CGREC
Buckbrush (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) also is known as western snowberry because of its creamy white berries in the fall. This native prairie plant often is considered a bother because of its tendency to form dense thickets. A cool-season, rhizomatous species, buckbrush can survive on many different soil types and in many regions. In fact, it is found across the U.S. except for areas in the southwest and southeast.
Buckbrush has forage value for cattle throughout the grazing season. However, cattle generally do not select it when range grasses are abundant and growing actively. Besides providing forage value to cattle, this plant is also an important browse for deer and antelope, and its berries are sought after by sharp-tailed grouse and other birds.
Buckbrush can decrease under heavy grazing pressure. Research conducted by CGREC range scientist Bob Patton shows that buckbrush decreases significantly under early intensive cattle grazing. In comparison, little or no change in the amount of buckbrush occurs under moderate, season-long grazing.
Data from the CGREC also shows that plant crude protein levels in current year's growth can reach 27 percent in mid-May and remain above 10 percent until July. Energy levels can be also relatively high in May (Patton et al., 2000).
More detailed information on grazing and its effects on plants can be found in the CGREC 2013 Annual Report.