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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - May 31, 2009

From: Cooperstown, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Pests
Title: Problems with beheaded non-native Gerbera daisies in Cooperstown, NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I planted my gerberas in my perennial bed - as usual. Something is beheading them and leaving the blooms along side the plant. Some of the bloom is eaten but most of it is right there. I have tried a rodent repellent mostly made up of black pepper oil. I have also tried cayenne sprinkled directly all over the flower and leaves. We have lots of birds, squirrels and woodchucks. What can I do to eliminate or at least repel whatever is doing the damage? Thanks.

ANSWER:

Do you have deer in the area? This sounds more like deer "tasting" to see if they like it. Apparently they don't, if they don't eat the whole bloom.  Doesn't really make any difference, we truly have no magic wand to keep critters from grazing on your plants. The birds are probably not guilty in this case, as that is not their usual fare. Squirrels are generally more fond of large seeds (especially sunflower seed put out for the birds), nuts and grains.

We don't have woodchucks in Texas (or groundhogs, as they are sometimes called) so we had to go looking for information. The woodchuck is mostly herbivorous, primarily eating wild grasses, other vegetation, berries and agricultural crops. However, they also eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects and snails, which is beneficial to the gardener. Clearing of forests for urban development (like building your house, for instance) has provided them with more suitable habitat. 

Rabbits? Well, gee, what's not to like about little fluffy bunnies? Lots, we guess, as you'll see in this article from PennState Cooperative Extension, Monroe County, PA, by Laurel Bishow, Penn State Master Gardener, Rabbit Resistant Plants.

A very comprehensive article with lots of links is this one from About.com: Landscaping Organic Pest Control for Insect and Rodent Garden Pests. It also has information on repelling deer. 

Conclusion? We don't have any. We don't know what is eating your Gerbera jamesonii, which is, by the way non-native to North America, but rather to South America, Africa and Asia.  If that is the only thing that is being eaten, it may just be that they will have to be sacrificed. What lengths you go to, with traps, netting, sprays, etc., will depend more on how badly you want to keep those particular plants. 

 

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