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Publication #WEC138

Ornamental Plant Susceptibility to Damage by Deer in Florida1

Martin B. Main, Joe Schaefer and Ginger M. Allen2

General Comments

Deer have many qualities we admire and value. Deer also may become a nuisance when their feeding behaviors damage ornamental plants and gardens and cause aggravation, inconvenience, and financial costs to property owners. As human dwellings continue to increase in rural areas where deer occur, the incidence of deer-human conflicts also will increase. This is particularly true where human developments replace native habitats and reduce the availability of natural foods preferred by deer. In these instances, deer may quickly become accustomed to feeding upon gardens, ornamental plantings, groves, and nurseries. Damage from deer may be reduced by fencing and the use of chemical repellents (see Main, Schaefer, and Allen, 1999), but a simpler, less expensive, and generally more effective alternative is to landscape with plants that deer do not like to eat.

Deer will feed upon a variety of vegetation including weeds and flowers, grasses, trees, shrubs, vines, and fruits and vegetables. Deer do not eat all plants, however, and diet is influenced by plant qualities such as taste and digestibility, and individual preferences among animals. Where deer densities are high, even plants that are normally avoided may be eaten. This IFAS extension fact sheet identifies some of the ornamental plants commonly planted in Florida and their susceptibility to damage from deer. This information may be used to guide planting decisions in areas where damage from deer is likely to be a problem. Development of this document was facilitated by a survey regarding susceptibility of commonly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials to browsing damage by deer of 71 Florida county extension agents with horticultural expertise. Thirteen counties responded to the survey, five of which provided plant species lists and eight of which reported that damage from deer was not a problem in their area.

The information provided is organized by plant growth form and is designed to assist in making decisions when landscaping in areas where damage from deer is likely to be a problem. All species listed are known to grow in Florida. In some cases, multiple species and varieties exist for a common name, such as Juniper (Juniperus spp.). In these instances, some species may be more susceptible than others and susceptibility may differ geographically. For example, the northern Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) may be severely damaged by deer in northern states.

For Additional Information

Main, M., J.M. Schaefer and G.M. Allen. 1999. Coping With Deer Damage in Florida. Extension sheet WEC-135, Dep. of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.

Horton, J.L., and W.D. Edge. 1994. Deer-resistant Ornamental Plants. Extension sheet 1440, Oregon State University Extension Service, Administrative Services A422, Corvalis, OR, 97331-2119.

Schaefer, J.M. and M.B. Main. Florida's White-Tailed Deer. Extension sheet SS-WEC-11, Dep. of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.

Acknowledgements

Collier County, FL Master Gardener Extension Specialists.

Survey participants, Horticultural Extension Specialists.

Tables

Table 1. 

Trees listed by susceptibility to damange from deer in Florida.

Frequent or Severe Damage

Common Name

Botanical Name

Comments

Black cherry

Prunus serotina

North & central Florida

Carolina laurel cherry

Prunus carolina

Large quantities fatal to livestock

Crabapple

Malus spp.

Sapling and fruit removal

Flatwoods plum

Prunus umbellata

Edible fruit

Pear

Pyrus spp.

Sapling and fruit removal

Occasional or Moderate Damage

Citrus

Citrus spp.

Young trees

Red maple

Acer rubrum

Occasionally severe damage

Schefflera

Schefflera actinophylla

Not resistant

White oak

Quercus alba

North Florida

Willow

Salix spp.

New growth preferred by deer

Rare or Minor Damage

American beech

Fagus grandiflora

Resistant

Australian pine

Casusrina equisetifolia

Resistant

Bottlebrush

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Resistant

Butterfly/cabada palms

Chrysalidocarpus spp.

Resistant

Cabbage/palmettos

Sabal spp.

Resistant

Christmas palms

Veitchia spp.

Resistant

Coconut palm

Cocos nucifera

Resistant

Crape myrtle

Lagerstroemia indica

Resistant

Date palms

Phoenix spp.

Resistant

Edible fig

Ficus carica

Resistant

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus cinerea

Resistant

Fishtail palms

Caryota spp.

Resistant

Flowering dogwood

Cornus florida

Resistant

Ligustrum

Ligustrum spp.

Resistant

Live oak

Quercus virginiana

Resistant

Loquat

Eriobotrya japonica

Resistant

Magnolia

Magnolia spp.

Resistant

Orchid tree

Bauhinia variegata

Resistant

Paurotis palm

Acoelorrhaphe wrightii

Resistant

Persimmon

Diospyros spp.

Resistant

Pineapple guava

Feijoa spp.

Resistant

Podocarpus

Podocarpus spp.

Resistant

Pomegranate

Punica granatum

Resistant

Ponytail, Bottle palm

Beaucarnea recurvata

Resistant

Queen palm

Arecastrum romanzoffianum

Resistant

Royal palm

Roystonea spp.

Resistant

Thatch palm

Thrinax spp.

Resistant

Yaupon

Ilex vomitoria

Resistant

Table 2. 

Shrubs listed by susceptibility to damage from deer in Florida.

Frequent or Severe Damage

Common Name

Botanical Name

Comments

Bouganvillea

Bouganvillea spp.

Not resistant

Evergreen Azaleas

Rhododendron spp.

Frequently damaged

Hibiscus

Hibiscus spp.

Not resistant, favorite

Hog plum

Prunus umbellata

North Florida species

Mexican firebush

Hamelia patens

Not resistant

Pittosporum

Pittosporum tobira

Not resistant, favorite

Rhododendrons

Rhododendron spp.

Frequently damaged

Roses

Rosa spp.

Regular spraying will reduce damage

 

Rare or Minor Damage

Banana shrub

Magnolia fuscata

Resistant

Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia reginae

Resistant

Blackberry

Rubus spp.

Only thorny species resistant

Bottlebrush

Callistemon spp.

Resistant

Camellia

Camellia spp.

Resistant

Carissa

Carissa spp.

Resistant

Chinese holly

Ilex cornuta

Somewhat resistant

Croton

Croton linearis

Resistant

Gardenia

Gardenia spp.

Resistant

Heavenly bamboo

Nandina spp.

Resistant

Ixora

Ixora spp.

Resistant

Japanese boxwood

Buxus microphylla

Resistant

Juniper

Juniperus spp.

Resistant

Lantana

Lantana camara

Natives resistant, hybrids not

Mahonia

Mahonia spp.

Resistant

Myrtle-leaf holly

Ilex myrtifolia

Resistant

Needle palm

Rhopidophyllum hystrix

Resistant

Oleander

Nerium oleander

Resistant, poisonous

Philodendron

Philodendron spp.

Resistant, bugs won't eat either

Plumbago

Plumbago auriculata

Resistant

Rutty

Ruttya Ruspolia

Resistant

Silver thorn

Elaeagnus spp.

Resistant

Southern Indian Azaleas

Rhododendron spp.

Resistant

Sweet/tea olive

Osmanthus fragrans

Resistant

Viburnum

Viburnum spp.

Resistant

Wax myrtle

Myrica cerifera

Resistant

Table 3. 

Vines & Ground Cover listed by susceptibility to damage from deer in Florida.

Frequent or Severe Damage

Common Name

Botanical Name

Comments

Clematis

Clematis spp.

Poisonous to humans

Occasional or Moderate Damage

Trumpet vine

Campis radicans

Central to north Florida

Rare or Minor Damage

Allamanda

Allamanda cathartica

R

Resistant

Asparagus fern

Asparagus densiflorus

 

Resistant

Aztec grass

Ophiopogon japonicus

Resistant

Boston fern

Nephrolepis spp.

Resistant

English ivy

Hedera helix

Resistant, poisonous to humans

Holly fern

Lomariopsis kunzeana

Resistant

Pampas grass

Cortaderia spp.

Resistant

Shield fern

Dryopteris spp.

Resistant

Society garlic

Tulbaghia violacea

Resistant

Star jasmine

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Will eat when under pressure

Wandering Jew

Tradescantia zebrina

R

Resistant

Yellow jessamine

Gelsemium sempervirens

Resistant, poisonous to humans

Table 4. 

Annuals/Perennials & Bulbs listed by susceptibility to damage from deer in Florida.

Frequent or Severe Damage

Common Name

Botanical Name

Comments

Celosia

Celosis argenta

Not resistant

Corn

Zea mays

Not resistant

Dahlias

Dahlia spp.

Not resistant

Day lilly

Liliaceae spp.

Not resistant

Impatiens

Impatiens spp.

Not resistant, favorite

Peas

Pisum sativum

Not resistant

Phlox

Phlox spp.

Not resistant

Partulaca

Portulaca spp.

Not resistant, favorite

Shrimp plant

Beloperone guttata

Not resistant

Star flower

Trientalis borealis

Not resistant

Tomatoes

Lypersicon esculentum

Not resistant

Occasional or Moderate Damage

Aster

Aster spp.

Will eat when under pressure

Begonia

Begonia spp.

Will eat when under pressure

Iris

Iris spp.

Somewhat resistant

Zinnia

Zinnia spp.

Will eat when under pressure

Rare or Minor Damage

Ageratum

Ageratum spp.

Resistant

Aloe

Aloe spp.

Resistant

Angel flower

Angelonia angelonia

Resistant

Angles trumpet

Datura spp.

Resistant

Anise

Pimpinella anisum

Resistant

Black-eyed Susan

Rudbeckia hirta

Resistant

Bush daisy

Gamolepis chrysanthemoides

Resistant

Century plant

Agave americana

Resistant, poisonous to humans

Cone flower

Echinacea spp.

Resistant

Coreopsis/Tickseed

Coreopsis spp.

Resistant

Crown of thorns

Euphorbia milii

Resistant

Devil's trumpet

Datura spp.

Resistant

Dusty Miller

Senecio cineraria

Resistant

Ginger lilly

Liliaceae spp.

Resistant

Heliconia

Heliconia spp.

Resistant

Lilly family

Dracaena spp.

Resistant

Lily of the Nile

Agapanthus spp.

Resistant

Lupine

Lupine spp.

Resistant, poisonous to humans

Marigolds

Dimorphotheca spp.

Resistant

Peace lilly

Spathiphyllum spp.

Resistant

Periwinkle

Vinca rosea

Resistant

Petunia

Ruellia spp.

Resistant

Rotunda

Kaempferia spp.

Resistant

Sage

Salvia spp.

Resistant

Shasta daisy

Chrysanthemum superbum

Flowers may be eaten

Ti tree

Cordyline terminalis

Resistant

Trillium, wake robin

Trillium maculatum

Resistant, north Florida

Turks cap

Malavaviscus arboreus

Resistant

Verbena

Verbena spp.

Resistant

Yucca

Yucca spp.

Resistant

Footnotes

1.

This document is WEC138, one of a series of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed April 2003 and July 2010. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Martin B. Main, assistant professor and Extension wildlife specialist; and Ginger M. Allen, wildlife biological scientist; both of University of Florida, Southwest Florida REC, Immokalee, FL 34142; and Joe Schaefer, professor and Extension wildlife specialist; Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.