Oklahoma has more than 2,600 species of vascular plants, of which 90% are native. In this Fact Sheet, we have listed those commonly found in prairies, shrublands, and forest understories throughout the state and described their characteristics and resource values.
Characteristics of plant growth can be useful in determining where species occur and under what environmental conditions they exist. The life span of each plant in the following table is recorded as either perennial or annual. Annual plants complete their life cycle in one growing season and perpetuate through seed production. Perennials, in addition to producing seeds, store energy reserves in their root systems for use the following year. A species’ principal time of growth is described as either cool season or warm season. Cool-season plants complete the majority of their growth in the fall, winter, and spring. Warm-season plants grow during the summer.
A number of species have been brought here from other continents, either intentionally or by accident. These plants are termed introduced species. They often become undesirable because they lack natural enemies and may thrive at the cost of native species. Some introduced plants are invasive and noxious weeds and thus should be controlled. Some native plants, like eastern redcedar, become invasive because of the reduction in natural ecological processes such as fire. Whether each plant has a tendency to be invasive, such as Sericea lespedeza, is the final plant characteristic listed.
Because animals depend on plants for food and cover, the value of each species for deer, quail, wild turkey, and cattle has been rated as desirable or undesirable. It is important to note that the value of a plant to different wildlife species may be the same. Species also do not have to be a desired food item to be important. Cover provides necessary protection from weather and predators. Use of some species is seasonal. It is important to note that some species designated undesirable for food or cover may have other resource values and thus be considered important.
This table is intended to serve as a quick reference for determining the attributes of common plants in Oklahoma and their value to wildlife and indirectly to the land manager’s interests or needs. The species are grouped into four categories: graminoids, legumes, forbs, and woodies. For detailed discussions and drawings of these plants, obtain a copy of the Field Guide to Oklahoma Plants. Contact Rangeland Ecology and Management at 405.744.6421.
For information on all species of plants, visit
Terrence G. Bidwell
Professor and Extension Specialist
Rangeland Ecology and Management
Ronald E. Masters
Director of Research
Tall Timbers Research Station
Ronald J. Tyrl
Department of Botany