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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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Thursday - August 21, 2008

From: New Braunfels, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Damage to Agave in New Braunfels, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

In a flower box, I have an Agave on which the leaves have been damaged. It looks as if a deer rubbed his antlers on it. Is there any animal in south central Texas that would try to eat an agave?

ANSWER:

Times have been hard this summer in Central Texas, and lots of little (and big) animals are coming into home gardens to browse. However, it is unlikely that even deer would tackle an agave, and if they won't, we can't imagine any other animal that would. Few plants are completely deer resistant. Several factors influence deer browsing, including density of deer population, environmental conditions, such as drought, and plant palatability. Deer tend to avoid plants with aromatic foliage, tough, leathery and/or prickly leaves or plants with milky latex or sap. Two agaves on our Deer Resistant Species list are Agave americana (American century plant) and Agave univittata (thorncrest century plant). They would simply be representative of all the native agaves in our Native Plant Database. Not only are they tough and prickly, but they have a very potent sap that we are warned to avoid contact with when we trim or transplant agaves by wearing heavy gloves and goggles. Deer are not tremendously smart, but it does seem doubtful they would try something like that.

Male deer shed their antlers between January and April. During the growth period of the bony antlers, which is Summer, they are covered with a sensitive skin called "velvet". Antler growth spans 2 to 4 months, after which the velvet withers, dries and falls off, often assisted by the deer, which rubs his antlers against tree bark. Mating season is in the Fall, so the velvet is usually being shed in early Fall. So, it is within the realm of possibility that the damage to your agave was caused by a deer that perhaps tried to have a bite, and decided if he couldn't eat it, he'd rub his itchy antlers on it.

 

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