Tag Archive | tree damage

Deer Rutting = Tree Trunk Damage

As a designer of landscapes, I try to assess all of my landscape material choices wisely. This goes beyond simple choices of sunny or shade plants and moves into specific placement of hardscape or plant material for; flow, accentuation of house architecture, soil characteristics, aesthetics, safety and wildlife considerations. The areas that I work in are heavily populated by deer. I must consider the chance that any plant might get eaten by deer and stick to plants that tend to not be devoured by them (Links Below!)

Sadly, not all things can be assessed for. Some of the funnier instances that I don’t generally plan for is the inability of someone to pull in and out of their own driveway. Landscape lighting tends to get run down fairly often. Funnier still, my cure is to put an outcrop stone in front of it, which then just get pushed by the offending auto into the lighting fixture. At that point we move the fixture, can’t teach old dogs new tricks, it seems.

The situation in the photos was a new one on me. I’d seen it many times while hiking in the forest preserves. In the late fall, male deer feel the need to rub off the velvet on their antlers. It’s called ‘rutting’. Male deer do this for a multitude of reasons; mark territory, show dominance, tell does he’s available… It’s the Tinder of the deer world. This poor Ginkgo didn’t have a chance.

Bucks prefer to rub on trees and shrubs that have smooth bark and are one-half to four inches in diameter. All bucks will rub saplings less than two inches in diameter, however only older bucks will regularly rub trees six or more inches in diameter. Seeing a large-diameter tree that shows signs of steady rubbing, is a sure sign that at least one older, buck frequents the area.

In the South and Southeast, bucks seem to prefer aromatic species, such as cedar and sassafras. However, they’ll also readily rub alders, eastern juniper, cherries, witch hazel, winged sumac, striped maple, sourwood and pines.

The Northeast and Upper Great Lakes region bucks like trembling aspen best as the species has a smooth, soft bark that is easily stripped. The inner wood is very light in color and has long-lasting brilliance once it’s exposed. Along with the aspen, red maple, sumac, black cherry, balsam fir, pines and willows are frequently rubbed; whereas thick barked trees like, sugar maple, ironwood, beech and paper birch are usually avoided.

Why this action of scraping the trunk surface is so bad is that just under the bark is the xylem which carries water and minerals from the roots to the leaves and the phloem which carries manufactured food, like sugars, from the leaves to the roots. If the xylem or phloem is severed all the way around the tree (girdling the tree), food cannot be carried to the roots and they will eventually die, causing the whole tree to die.

It’s sad, however there is really no way to predict this happening. Clients aren’t going to circle their trees with protective fencing either. Unfortunately, we’ll just replace this tree and hope that it will not be bothered again.

Deer Proof Trees

Deer Proof Shrubs

Deer Proof Perennials

Β© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl