Deer Are Picky Eaters

Arrowwood viburnum, Schenley Park, September 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

29 September 2022

In western Pennsylvania, where we have a high deer population, gardeners have learned from experience that white-tailed deer will eat some plants and not others. They heavily browse their favorites to the point of killing them but leave others untouched, even plants in the same genus.

Viburnum is a case in point. Gardening advice at Rutgers University’s Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance indicates that arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) is deer resistant. Pictured at top, these shrubs are healthy in Schenley Park where the deer population is more than 100 per square mile.

Deer also don’t like the Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum) which thrives as an invasive in Frick Park, shown below.

Viburnum plicatum fruit, Schenley, July 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

But they love our native hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) and consume it to local extinction.

Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) is a favorite food of deer (photo taken in Maine by Kate St. John)

Read about hobblebush in this vintage article.

When it comes to viburnum, deer are picky eaters.

(photos by Kate St. John)

2 thoughts on “Deer Are Picky Eaters

  1. How odd, I planted an arrowwood viburnum that I bought from Home Depot in my yard, and it’s being browsed by something, which I would assume are deer, given the height of the plant. After you posted about the fact that the deer don’t eat wingstem, I started thinking, I guess there must be an abundance of native plants that deer don’t eat since I see a lot of them, like goldenrod, ironweed, joe pye weed, and white snakeroot and the plants in that family (eupatorium). As an aside, it drives me crazy that they keep changing the Latin names of flora and fauna. I go to the trouble of learning the Latin names and then they change them and I have to learn new ones! I just found out that joe pye weed is now in its own genus and not eupatorium.

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