Resistance of Trees and Shrubs to Deer Damage

Damage caused by deer browsing on trees and shrubs can be a problem in some rural and suburban areas in Iowa. The amount of damage depends upon seasonal factors, weather conditions, availability of alternative foods, and plant palatability. Prevention of deer browsing is difficult. Home gardeners may be able to avoid some deer damage by careful plant selection. Horticulturists and wildlife specialists at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, have identified trees and shrubs that are rarely or seldom, occasionally, and frequently damaged by deer. Those plant species adapted to Iowa are listed below.Plants Rarely or Seldom Severely Damaged

Common Name Botanical Name
Barberry Berberis spp.
Redosier Dogwood Cornus sericea
Forsythia Forsythia spp.
Honeylocust Gleditsia triacanthos
Beautybush Kolkwitzia amabilis
Norway Spruce Picea abies
White Spruce Picea glauca
Colorado Spruce Picea pungens
Mugo Pine Pinus mugo
Austrian Pine Pinus nigra
Scotch Pine Pinus sylvestris
Common Lilac Syringa vulgaris

Plants Occasionally Severely Damaged

Common Name Botanical Name
White Fir Abies concolor
Red Maple Acer rubrum
Silver Maple Acer saccharinum
Sugar Maple Acer saccharum
Common Horsechestnut Aesculus hippocastanum
Serviceberry Amelanchier spp.
Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp.
Common Witchhazel Hamamelis virginiana
Rose-of-Sharon Hibiscus syriacus
Hydrangea Hydrangea spp.
Privet Ligustrum spp.
Eastern White Pine Pinus strobus
Potentilla Potentilla fruticosa
Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii
White Oak Quercus alba
Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra
Willows Salix spp.
Anthony Waterer Spirea Spiraea x bumalda 'Anthony Waterer'
Bridalwreath Spirea Spiraea prunifolia
Persian Lilac Syringa x persica
Japanese Tree Lilac Syringa reticulata
American Linden Tilia americana
Canadian Hemlock Tsuga canadensis
Old-Fashioned Weigela Weigela florida

Plants Frequently Severely Damaged

Common Name Botanical Name
Norway Maple Acer platanoides
Eastern Redbud Cercis canadensis
Clematis Clematis spp.
Corneliancherry Dogwood Cornus mas
Winged Euonymus Euonymus alatus
Apples, Crabapples Malus spp.
Cherries, Plums Prunus spp.
Rhododendrons Rhododendron spp.
Hybrid Tea Rose Rosa x hybrid
Yews Taxus spp.
American Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis

Home gardeners should realize that no plant species is completely deer resistant. Deer will browse even on the most resistant plants when faced with starvation. However, careful plant selection, along with repellents and fencing can reduce deer damage.

This article originally appeared in the May 26, 1993 issue, pp. 1993 issue, pp. 77-78.


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