HOME

MANAGE WILDLIFE

MANAGE HABITAT

ABOUT US

BLOG

FAQ

SUCCESS STORIES

ASSISTANCE

PLANNING

OUR NEWSLETTER

CONTACT US

SPONSORS

Thicket Establishment


Stepping Stone ThicketsEstablishment
Headquarter ThicketsMaintenance




Thickets are groups or clusters of shrubs located within an old field or native grass field. They can be as small as a couple of shrubs to large groups of multiple shrubs which cover a quarter acre or more. Natural thickets are often the result of birds depositing seeds form shrubs like sumac, wild plum, dogwood, or blackberries. These thickets over time begin to expand in size from one shrub to many. Often they are randomly distributed within the field, providing a diversity of different sized areas for wildlife.


Thickets provide escape and loafing cover for a variety of wildlife species including quail and rabbits. They provide beneficial breeding and wintering habitat for wildlife. Thickets also provide soft mast and a diversity of insects for wildlife. Although native grasses provide good cover for quail and rabbits compared to fescue and other exotic cool season grasses, they do not provide as much overhead and thermal cover as shrubs. Quail and rabbits will use thickets to escape from predators. When a predator goes after a quail or rabbit in a thicket, they can escape easily to another clump a short distance away. In areas were rabbit and quail number are flourishing there are multiple thickets scattered throughout the field.These thickets are also important for a number of early successional songbirds for predator evasion, food, and nesting.

Top of Page

Stepping Stone Thickets

Stepping stone thickets are small clumps of shrubs that provide temporary predator evasion sites for wildlife. These stepping stones allow wildlife to move between larger blocks of woody cover or headquarter thickets to other headquarters or blocks of cover. They are not meant to be the main secure escape cover, but give prey a better chance to avoid predators. These small clumps may act as territories or nesting sites for songbirds. Stepping stone clumps should be spaced from 75ft to 100ft from each other, other woody edges, or headquarter thickets. This distance is short enough for quail to fly or run to and a short run for rabbits. Small shrub clumps provide quick escape points for wildlife. By having multiple stepping stone thickets throughout the field it makes it more difficult for predators to locate where prey like quail and rabbits are. Stepping stone thickets should be at least a 100ft2 to 500ft2 in size.

Top of Page

Headquarter Thicket

Headquarter thickets are larger thickets that can range from 1500ft2 (30ft X50ft) in size to no more than a quarter acre in size. You should plant no more than six 1500ft2 headquarters per acre. Headquarter coverage should not exceed 30% of the total field acreage. Larger headquarters will mean planting fewer per acre. At a minimum 1 headquarter per 2 acres should be used along with the establishment of stepping stone thickets to connect headquarters to other headquarters, fencerows, or brushy woodland edges.


Top of Page

Establishment

If the process of establishment of thickets is left up to the random chance of birds, it can take 20 or more years before these thickets are noticeable. Establishment of thickets can either be by bare root seedlings or direct seeding. For bare root establishment of stepping stone thickets, seedling spacing should be 3ft X 3ft (11 seedlings/100ft2). Headquarter thicket seedling spacing should either be 3ft x 3ft (167seedlings/1500ft2) or 5ft X 5ft (60 seedlings/1500ft2). For additional information on establishing shrubs see our section on Tree and Shrub Planting.


Another method for establishing thickets is direct seeding. Although direct seeding can take more time to create a thicket, the amount of effort can be less then establishment by seedling. For direct seeding, existing vegetation should be killed with glyphosate in the spring or mid-summer and a second application in the early fall before tilling the soil. Seedbed should have little residual vegetation on it and be firm to allow broadcasting seed. Thickets should be seeded in the late summer or fall. This period will allow seeds to go through cold stratification which should increase germination the following year. Direct seeding of a thicket or stepping stone should consist of at least 3 shrub species. Of those three species at least one of the following should be in your mix American plum, Chickasaw plum, false indigo, roughleaf dogwood, or silky dogwood. Seeding rate should be from 2 lbs to 3 lbs per headquarter or 4 oz to 8 oz per 100ft2 for stepping stone thickets. After broadcasting seed rake or drag with a piece of chain link fence to increase contact of seed with soil.


Shrub species ideal for creating stepping stone or headquarter thickets include the following:


Common Name

Scientific Name

lbs/1500ft2

oz/100ft2

American Plum

Prunus americana

1.0 lb

2.0 oz

Chickasaw Plum

Prunus angustifolia

1.0 lb

2.0 oz

False Indigo

Amorpha fruticosa

0.5 lbs

0.5 to 2 oz

Roughleaf Dogwood

Cornus drummondii

1.0 lbs

2.0 oz

Silky Dogwood

Cornus amomum

1.0 lbs

2.0 oz

Blackberry

Rhubus allegheniensis

0.5 lbs

0.5 oz

Elderberry

Sambucus nigra

0.5 lbs

0.5 oz

Fragrant Sumac

Rhus aromatica

1.0 lbs

1.0 oz

Smooth Sumac

Rhus glabra

1.0 lbs

1.0 oz

Staghorn Sumac

Rhus typina

1.0 lbs

1.0 oz

Pasture Rose

Rosa carolina

0.5 lbs

0.5 oz

Serviceberry

Amelanchier aborea

0.5 lbs

0.5 oz

Blackhaw Viburum

Viburnum prunifolium

1.0 lbs

1.0 oz

Green Hawthorn

Crataegus viridis

0.5 lbs

0.5 oz



Note: All seeding rates are based on bulk seed.

Top of Page

Maintenance

The first growing season after planting thickets whether bare root or direct seeded should be treated with sethoxydim (Poast, Vantage) to control annual and perennial grasses. Also you may want to consider cutting down small trees along the edge of your field and creating a brush pile on the stepping stone or headquarter thicket areas to increase its value until seedlings become established. During the second year or third year it may be necessary to treat the thickets with sethoxydim again. If you plan to burning your field before year 8 you should protect your thickets with a disked fire break. After thickets are established, a cool fire can be running through most thickets with little effect. If a fire is planned under low humidity, with heavy fine fuel loads near or in the thicket, and during late spring or summer a disked fire break should be installed around the thicket. After the thicket is 15 to 20 years old you should consider doing a thicket renovation. For additional information see our section on Hedgerow and Thicket Renovation and Prescribed Fire.

Top of Page


  What to do when

Use the planning calendar below for tips on enhancing your land throughout the year. Click any of the selections below for more details.






HOME  |  ABOUT US  |  HABITAT BLOG  |  FAQ  |  SUCCESS STORIES  |  OUR NEWSLETTER  |  CONTACT US