Native Legume for Improving Pastures in the Southern U.S.

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Legumes are plants within the bean family capable of fixing nitrogen. Legumes can enhance conservation tillage systems, improve soil quality, reduce nitrogen requirements on row crops and pasture lands, enhance wildlife habitat, enhance pasture and hay land quality, and reduce soil erosion in cropland and critical areas.  Warm and cool-season legume species produce high-quality forage and seed throughout the year making them extremely valuable to wildlife and livestock.  Legumes have been developed and released by the USDA NRCS Plant Materials Program and can be found in the commercial market; others may be increased through proper habitat management.  In conjunction with their valuable forage and seed, many legumes produce showy blooms which are valuable for pollinator habitat.  These combined factors make native legumes some of our most valuable conservation plants.

One native legume, herbaceous mimosa, Mimosa strigillosa, is a perennial warm-season plant with a turf-like growth form found throughout the southern United States on a wide variety of soil types.  It provides many ecological benefits from soil stabilization to wildlife and pollinator habitat improvement.  Herbaceous mimosa establishes rapidly with spreading growth and develops a deep root system.  The deep root system combined with leaves that fold to reduce surface area makes it extremely drought hardy.  It also tolerates flooding for extended periods and is often found in river flood plains with heavy soil.


Crockett Germplasm herbaceous mimosa was released by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, East Texas Plant Materials Center, Nacogdoches, Texas, for conservation plantings in the Western Coastal Plain region of Texas and Louisiana.  In regional trials of the native, warm-season, perennial legume species, Crockett Germplasm showed the greatest promise for inter-seeding into warm-season pastures due to its high-quality forage production.  Crockett Germplasm was also inter-seeded into warm season, introduced grasses (bermudagrass and bahiagrass) at the Louisiana State University, AgCenter Red River Research Station in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, and in Franklin Parish, Louisiana, to evaluate its potential as a pasture legume.  Results showed Crockett Germplasm is palatable to cattle, withstands prescribed grazing, is compatible with bermudagrass and bahiagrass and provides a legume option for sustainable forage management systems. 

Crockett Germplasm herbaceous mimosa has shown potential to improve and persist in warm-season pastures in East Texas and North Louisiana.  It is also recognized for its wildlife and pollinator habitat value among other ecosystem services it provides on adapted landscapes. 

Technical information and guidance on the use of conservation plants to address resource concerns are available on the Plant Materials Program website or contact the nearest Plant Materials Center or plant materials specialist.  For more information on Crockett Germplasm herbaceous mimosa, contact Alan Shadow (alan.shadow@usda.gov), Manager, East Texas Plant Materials Center.

Source: USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service