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Sunday - June 01, 2008

From: Brenham, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Native plants for deer
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live on 5 acres near Brenham and want to plant FOR the deer, without using non-natives. I leave unmowed islands of Buffalo grass, little bluestem and many native forbs. I know they are using it for cover but are they actually eating it or do they prefer my neighbor's veggies?

ANSWER:

Wow! I think this is the first time we have gotten a question looking for plants that deer LIKE to eat. It is usually the reverse.

First of all, grass is not a large component of the deer's food. They do eat it, but mostly when it is young and tender and provides the highest nourishment or as a last resort when nothing else is available. Their major foods are forbs (herbaceous plants) and browse (foliage of shrubs and trees). They will also eat mast (acorns, persimmons, mesquite beans, cedar berries and other fruits) which is, I suppose, a sort of subset of browse. There is an excellent article, White-tailed Deer Management in the Texas Hill Country by W. E. Armstrong and E. L. Young, from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that goes into depth about managing the land for deer. In appendices at the end of the article there are lists of preferred deer food—Appendix B: Deer Browse Plants and Appendix C: Common Forbs of the Edwards Plateau. Since Brenham and Washington County are east of the Texas Hill Country, not all of the plants listed are going to be native to your area. I've picked out a few of the ones that are native to Washington County and that deer do prefer.

Browse

Ulmus crassifolia (cedar elm)

Frangula caroliniana (Carolina buckthorn)

Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak)

Quercus stellata (post oak)

Celtis laevigata (sugarberry)

Sideroxylon lanuginosum (gum bully)

Smilax bona-nox (saw greenbrier)

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud)

Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy) (go figure!)

Forbs

Phacelia congesta (bluecurls)

Commelina erecta (whitemouth dayflower)

Engelmannia peristenia (Engelmann's daisy)

Calylophus berlandieri (Berlandier's sundrops)

Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower)

Eustoma exaltatum (catchfly prairie gentian)

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow)

Callirhoe pedata (palmleaf poppymallow)

 

 

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