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Friday - February 01, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Deadwood for Degus
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I have a very specific and hopefully easy question. I just brought home some degus (small adorable rodents) and they have a severely restricted list of woods they can chew on safely. The safe trees that are fairly common (and that I recognize) are: birch, poplar, ash, willow, pecan, elm, sycamore and bamboo. I need to go somewhere in the woods or to a park and pick up some fallen deadwood from these trees. Can anyone recommend some places for some of these trees? All I seem to see around Austin are oaks and cedars. I'm in the NW Austin areas, but I'll drive anywhere. Willow is the theoretical best for them, along with pecan and poplar. Thanks!

ANSWER:

Best wishes for a long and healthy relationship with your new degus pets. A quick search online showed that they are popular pets because of their diurnal habits, intelligence, friendly personalities, bonding nature with their human owners, and long lifespan. Their continually growing incisor and molar teeth cause them to chew, chew, chew and hence your search for safe, local, deadwood branches.

Around Austin, the most prevalent native trees on your list are the Carya illinoinensis (pecans). Pictures of the leaves, bark and a tree silhouette as well as information about the tree’s characteristics can be found in our native plant database so that you will be better able to identify the wood they need.

There are also many Fraxinus texensis (Texas ash) trees in the city as well as a few Salix nigra (black willow), Ulmus americana (American elm) and Populus deltoides (Eastern cottonwood) that you might consider. The willows and cottonwoods (poplars) can be found mainly along creeks.

Before you start out on your wood collecting expedition, please research your trees so that you can correctly identify the safe species for your degus. Also, it is imperative that you get prior permission to remove deadwood from public or private lands. Some people that might be able to help with this are the staff at the City Arborist office, Treefolks for location suggestions, and perhaps an urban fruit growing farmer or commercial arborist (if they have a brush pile of prunings). You should not have a problem finding a source of wood that is safe for your degus pets.

 

From the Image Gallery


Pecan
Carya illinoinensis

Texas ash
Fraxinus albicans

Black willow
Salix nigra

American elm
Ulmus americana

Eastern cottonwood
Populus deltoides

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Bibliography

Common Southwestern Native Plants: An Identification Guide (2003) Carter, J. L.; M. A. Carter; D. J. Stevens

Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.

Howard Garrett's Texas Trees (2002) Howard Garrett

Plants of Central Texas Wetlands (2009) Fleenor, S. B. and S. W. Taber

Texas Trees & Wildflowers (2001) Kavanagh, J. ; R. Leung

Texas Trees: A Friendly Guide (1988) Cox, P. W. & P. Leslie

Trees, Shrubs, & Cacti of South Texas (2002) Everitt, J.H. & D. L. Drawe

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