Also called “Dove Weed,” Woolly Croton is a native, warm-season annual forb/broadleaf adapted to the South that produces seeds highly palatable to dove, quail and other seed-eating birds. Non-GMO
Also called “Dove Weed,” Woolly Croton is a native, warm-season annual forb/broadleaf adapted to the South that produces seeds highly palatable to dove, quail and other seed-eating birds. Plant 5 lbs per acre winter through spring. Woolly Croton typically has a high percentage of dormant seed, so planting during the cold season allows natural processes to “wake up” the germ to grow in the spring. However, the seed can be planted in the warm season, as well. In either case, the time it takes to germinate and become established is highly variable, although planting in winter or even late winter/early spring will help your odds of success for spring germination. Non-GMO
In addition to doves, these crotons are also reportedly an important food source for other birds including northern bobwhites and scaled quail, as well as additional seed-eating birds, including, at least in the case of woolly croton, Rio Grande turkeys.
Although they’re each distinct, collectively they may be referred to as “doveweed”—and this is your first hint as to why croton may be actively cultivated. As Texas Dove Hunters Magazine puts it:
According to the Texas A&M Department of Rangeland, Wildlife, and Fisheries Management, there are 20 species of croton occurring in Texas, but Texas Dove Hunters Magazine puts it at “more than 25 species of croton” in Texas. In short, there’s no short supply of croton in Texas (you may just need to look out your window for confirmation of that) but don’t confuse this croton with the far more colorful garden croton, native to tropical areas, that is grown as an indoor houseplant. An endless landscape of bold and shiny evergreen leaves in vivid shades of greens, yellows, and purples, may sound more enticing but it would not provide the wildlife benefits of our more, well, beautiful-on-the-inside croton in Texas.
The three most common crotons in Texas, and the three that have done particularly well this year, are one-seed croton, Texas croton, and woolly croton. All three are generally associated with soil disturbance, lack of soil cover, and overgrazing. On the more positive side, their leaves have a pleasant aroma when crushed (some have likened it to the smell of sage). The Texas and woolly crotons have a three-seeded capsule or “fruit” while the one-seed croton, also known as prairie tea, has a capsule with only one seed.
“…mourning dove and white-wing dove diets are comprised of more than 99 percent seed by weight. Even though these dove species are known to consume seeds from over 1,000 plant species nation-wide, seeds from certain plant species or families are represented repeatedly in dove diets. In Texas, doveweed is king.”
Croton is having a moment this year in Texas. Like it or not, you may have noticed a bumper crop of one-seed croton, Texas croton, or woolly croton on your property. If you’ve been dismayed by the sheer amount of croton on your property and could use some positive information about this rangy Texas native (instead of just bitterly staring at what seems like an endless sea of weeds), the good news is—yes!—there are positives. In fact, croton is actively cultivated by some folks. Will you want to buy croton seeds after reading the following? Possibly not, but, hopefully, you’ll have a greater appreciation for that sea outside your window.
Despite their positive as a popular wild bird seed, not too many other critters favor this abundant food source, including deer and livestock, although not for lack of trying by some ranchers. In “Can Cows Eat Woolly Croton?” author and livestock expert Kathy Voth describes being asked by ranchers if they could use her training technique to teach cows to eat woolly croton. According to her article, at least one rancher had success.