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Mr. Smarty Plants - What eats American holly bushes in winter?

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Sunday - January 24, 2010

From: Marlborough, MA
Region: Select Region
Topic: Trees
Title: What eats American holly bushes in winter?
Answered by: Janice Kvale

QUESTION:

I live in Marlborough, MA and I was shoveling snow on January 19th and noticed how beautiful my Holly bush was covered in red berries against the new fallen snow. My husband said to me this morning (January 23rd) "Did you notice your Holly bush out front? Something has eaten all the berries and the leaves." I could not believe it. It did not look like the same bush I was admiring less than a week ago. All berries and the leaves are gone and animal waste is all around it. What eats Holly in the winter?

ANSWER:

You can take some comfort in the fact that your beautiful holly has provided sustenance for some critter unable to find other food in snow bound Massachusetts. The scat you observed may provide a clue as to which critter, but there are a number of suspects. Deer, squirrels, and other small mammals will devour Ilex opaca (American holly) and the berries are an important source of food for as many as 18 species of birds. While there are a number of insect pests that may chew on hollies, that is unlikely at this time of year. The damage is most likely aesthetic, and your holly will recover in time for a good show next year. Look for more extensive information about American holly at this site


Ilex opaca

Ilex opaca

Ilex opaca

Ilex opaca

 

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