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Monday - March 17, 2008

From: Chepachet, RI
Region: Northeast
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Native, deer-resistant evergreen trees for Rhode Island
Answered by: Nan Hampton


What deer proof evergreens can I plant in RI that may make nice xmas trees in a few years?


First of all, there are not really any "deer proof" plants, only deer resistant ones. When food is short and conditions are tough, deer will eat almost anything—even plants on all the deer-resistant lists. That said, here is information about the deer-resistance of native evergreens (presented below) that grow in Rhode Island.

Deer-Departed.com lists the following species on their "Rarely Damaged Tree" list: Chamaecyparis species, Ilex opaca, Juniperus virginiana, Picea glauca, and Pinus species. Brooklyn Botanic Garden list of Deer-resistant Plants—Shrubs and Trees for the Deer-Plagued Gardener lists Chameaecyparis species and Picea species trees as deer-resistant. Iowa State University Extension Service puts Thuja occidentalis on their "Plants Frequently Severely Damaged". It is possible, however, to protect young trees from nibbling deer by enclosing them in wire cages. Check with you local nurseries for possible solutions.

Below are native evergreen trees that grow in Rhode Island. The information about growth rates for these comes from the U. S. Forest Service. It is possible that there are nursery cultivars of these trees that have been selected for more rapid growth than that listed by the Forest Service.

Chamaecyparis thyoides (Atlantic white cedar) has a medium growth rate. In favorable sites they can grow to 10 feet in 7 or 8 years in the South, or 10 years in the Northeast. Here are some photos of Atlantic white cedar.

Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar), depending on the site, can grow as much as 17 inches in a year.

Thuja occidentalis (arborvitae) , probably not deer-resistant and generally slow growing (as little as 3 inches/year). Photo of T. occidentalis.

There are several pines, most of which are somewhat deer-resistant:

Pinus banksiana (jack pine) grows slowly in the first 3 years, but after this period their growth rate increases considerably so that they may be 3 feet by 4 years. Photos of P. banksiana.

Pinus resinosa (red pine) grows slowly in the wild and may take as long as 10 years to reach 4.5 feet. Photo of P. resinosa.

Pinus rigida (pitch pine) is another slow grower requiring 8 years to reach 2 feet. Photos of P. rigida.

Pinus strobus (eastern white pine) grows slowly for first 2 to 3 years, but then increases rapidly so that by 10 years they have reached 10-15 feet.


Picea glauca (white spruce) is another slow grower, reaching less than 20 inches after 4-6 years. Photos of P. glauca.

Picea mariana (black spruce) growth reaches 5-13 feet at 10 years in plantations. Photos of P. mariana.

Finally, an evergreen non-conifer, Ilex opaca (American holly), can grow 3 to 4 feet a year under optimal conditions, but usually grows much slower. Here is more information about its growth.

Juniperus virginiana

Pinus strobus

Ilex opaca



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