Coralberry buckbrush, a concern to many livestock producers as it often crowds out desirable grazing forages, is found around the edges of pastures, as well as in pastures and hayfields. It is also found in poorly managed fields, roadside ditches and timberlands.
This invasive, low-growing perennial woody shrub is extremely prolific if left unchecked. Deer and goats will consume this plant, though cattle and horses have little to no desire to eat it. The coral berries produced on this plant persist well into the winter and are wintertime favorites of deer and other wildlife.
In late summer and early fall, this plant is easily seen as it draws a lot of attention due to the summer heat burning down most cool-season grass, leaving it to stand out. This is not the time of the year to control it.
The leaves are opposite and about the size of a quarter in most cases. They are oval in shape with a short petiole, smooth margins, and short, soft hairs found on a whitish-green leaf surface. The early springtime younger leaves often have a reddish coloration to them as they develop from new growth. The plant will usually grow to heights of 3 to 4 feet in a bush-like structural pattern. This plant is known to have a very fibrous root system with creeping underground rootstocks, which allows it to spread rapidly and form impenetrable thickets.
Coralberry buckbrush will survive multiple mowings per season with little to no permanent control, and mowing is not likely to eliminate future infestations. However, goats through proper grazing practices can reduce infestation rates of buckbrush over time. The best control method when using chemical is 2,4-D (1 to 2 quarts per acre) applied to early spring growth (before April 15). The best time to spray is when the plants are young and about 10 to 12 inches in height with large, fully developed leaves. Chemical applications after these two common practices, because of the leaves developing resistance to chemicals via a waxy coating, seem to lose their effectiveness and might be a total waste of time and money.
Make sure to get the plant completely wet by applying plenty of water (15 gallons per acre minimum) when going over the plants. You will also find it very difficult to get in and around problem areas, such as standing timber and/or next to large ditches, so a long-reaching spray wand might be of great help. Some other effective herbicides used for control are those containing 2,4-D, aminopyralid and/or metsulfuron, such as Chaparral, Cimarron or GrazonNext HL. For a 100-gallon spray mix, depending on the chemical of your choice, you might want to mix up to 2 quarts of a quality surfactant. As with all chemicals, locate and read the label completely and carefully watching for any grazing and/or all haying restrictions, as these things might have an adverse effect on your livestock operation.
For more information about pasture plant identification, contact a local University of Missouri Extension agronomy field specialist.