What Plant Is Important in December?
Shin oak is a deciduous, low-growing, thicket-forming shrub that is found in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and throughout more than 5 million acres in the Southern Great Plains.
Shin oak is often called sand shinnery because it grows in the sand dune areas of the country.
- May reach 5 to 6 feet in height
- May form a small tree and co-dominate the plant community with mid- and tall-grasses
- Leathery, lobed leaves that range in color from gray-green to olive
- Light gray, scaly bark
- Produces an acorn crop in approximately 3 out of 10 years
- Spreads from dense root systems and woody rhizomes
- Known to hybridize with other oaks, posing an identification problem to taxonomists
It competes with forages that are more beneficial for livestock. Shin oak leaves and buds are toxic to livestock in the spring. It is an important plant to the cotton farmers of West Texas — the boll weevil overwinters in the shin oak litter and can infest nearby cotton fields in the spring.
Shin oak is not all bad. Its dense thickets can help stabilize sand dunes. It provides very good habitat for many important wildlife species. Bobwhite quail, scaled quail, lesser prairie chicken, turkey, deer, antelope and many other game and non-game species consume the acorns or use the vegetation for habitat.
Shin oak can be controlled with herbicides, but we caution against complete or excessive control. This can lead to severe wind erosion and “blow outs” in the sand dune areas.
Editor’s note: Jeff Goodwin, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Kent Ferguson, recently retired from NRCS, are providing us with plant identification photo stories to help ranchers identify those forbs, forages and brush species growing in the pastures. Additional photos provided by Clint Rollins, USDA NRCS, and USDA.
"What Plant is Important in December" is from the December 2014 issue of The Cattleman magazine.