En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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


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.


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. 


More Non-Natives Questions

Problems with non-native windmill palm in Eden NY
May 29, 2009 - I have a potted windmill palm, about two weeks after being potted the leaves are turning yellow with brown spots on them. what have I done wrong?
view the full question and answer

Wildflower Center work on non-native, invasive Bastard Cabbage from Austin
March 20, 2014 - Still have cabbage weeds that infiltrated Austin awhile back. How did Wildflower Center resolve it?
view the full question and answer

Controlling Rapistrum rugosum (annual bastardcabbage)
March 09, 2012 - The invasive, Rapistrum rugosum, seems to be especially ubiquitous this year. I communicated with Dr. Mark Simmons a few years ago regarding his research, which indicated that over-sowing wit...
view the full question and answer

Care for non-native Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)
August 08, 2006 - I was given a desert rose and i'm looking for general information about planting, watering, how much sun it needs etc. I hope you can help. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Can non-native Epiphyllum (Orchid Cactus) be grown in Round Rock, Texas?
July 01, 2014 - Can the Epiphyllum (Orchid Cactus) be grown in the Round Rock Texas area or is this area too hot for it?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center