Controlling Buckbrush in Pasture

Controlling Buckbrush in Pasture

May 23, 2008

Buckbrush (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) is a common native weed in northeastern Nebraska's rangeland, woodland, ravines and along streams. It is a perennial forb that reproduces both by seeds and rhizome. (Rhizome is a horizontal creeping root system growing in the top 2-12 inches of soil.) Rhizomes can access soil moisture faster and from a deeper profile than fibrous roots of pasture grasses, giving buckbrush a competitive advantage over grass, especially in dry years.

Life Cycle

Buckbrush plants usually start growing in sparse groups (patches or clusters) and then spread. Its stem is erect, 2-6 ft, brownish and somewhat smooth, with many branches. Leaves are opposite, elliptic to ovate with pointed tips. Like many other plant species, growth and development depends on the amount and timing of rainfall.

In Nebraska Buckbrush can flower from July to August, with greenish-white to purple flowers. Buckbrush can provide forage for deer early in the season and fruit for upland game birds, wild turkeys and songbirds later in the season. Buckbrush has no value to livestock because of its low palatability.


Ranchers need to control this species because heavy stands of buckbrush can reduce grass production as much as 80%, especially in dry years. Several control methods are available:

  • Biological. Goats and sheep can reduce buckbrush stands if confined to an area.


  • Mechanical. Single mowing of new 1-2 foot plants can reduce populations, especially in dry years. Additional mowing will be needed in wet years. Mowing also can remove the previous year's growth to prepare the site for broadcast applications of herbicides.


  • Chemical. Herbicides are the most effective tools in providing season-long control. Herbicides should be applied when new growth is 6-12 inches tall. Effective herbicides and their rates per acre include: 2,4-D ester (2-3 qt/ac); Grazon P+D (1-2 qt/ac); Telar (1.0 oz/ac); mix of Cimarron (0.25 oz/ac) with WeedMaster (16 oz/ac); mix of Cimarron (0.25oz/ac) with RangeStar (16 oz/ac); and Cimarron (Ally, Escort) used alone at 0.5oz/ac. 

Stevan Knezevic
Extension Weeds Specialist
Haskell Ag Lab, Concord

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