Have you ever had a deer wander into your yard to dine on your landscape plants? Well, that’s what happened several years ago at a wildflower demonstration garden established as part of my extension program at the University of Florida/IFAS research center in Quincy.
|This nighttime shot caught one of the culprits in the act.|
These observations led to a full-blown scientific study in 2008 and 2009 about deer wildflower-browsing preferences. The study, which was recently published, was a team effort at the Quincy research center involving the departments of Wildlife Ecology (Holly Ober, Luke DeGroote) and Environmental Horticulture (Jim Aldrich, Gary Knox, and myself). Deer browsing plots were established each year using containerized plants of 11 wildflower species, all Asteraceae: Goldenmane Tickseed (Coreopsis basalis), Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana), Coastalplain Tickseed (Coreopsis gladiata), Fringeleaf or Chipola Tickseed (Coreopsis integrifolia), Lanceleaf Tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata), Leavenworth’s Tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii), Blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella), Pinnate Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and Softhair Coneflower (Rudbeckia mollis). (Swamp Tickseed was not included in the study because no seed or plants were available.) A tall fence around each plot protected 38 percent of the plants from deer. Deer damage was assessed every two weeks both years from April to November.
|A portion of the site was fenced to keep deer at bay.|
Photo: UF/IFAS, NFREC
The other seven species were browsed to some degree, with the percentage of browsed plants ranging from 27 percent (Leavenworth’s Tickseed) to 5 percent or less (Blanketflower, Pinnate Prairie Coneflower, Lanceleaf Tickseed, Goldenmane Tickseed). Lack of preference for Goldenmane Tickseed was a bit surprising as cattle like to graze on it (Terry Zinn, personal communication).
|It was evident some plants were preferred by deer visiting the plot.|
Photo: UF/IFAS, NFREC
Details of this study are published in the Volume 4, 2011 issue of the journal Southeastern Naturalist: DeGroote, L.W., H.K. Ober, J.H. Aldrich, J.G. Norcini, and G.W. Knox. 2011. Susceptibility of cultivated native wildflowers to deer damage. Southeastern Naturalist 10(4):761-771. The senior author, Luke DeGroote, can be contacted at email@example.com.