Dear herbivores…make that deer herbivores

The growing population of rabbits in the Medicinal Herb Garden have provided a good educational experience. It’s helpful to know what they do and don’t like to eat. Luckily, most of what they eat is close to the ground, though they occasionally saw off and topple  taller plants, like valerian (Valeriana officinalis). But that is an exception to the rule. Yes, it’s a good thing that rabbits can’t climb into the shrubs and trees.

So when I noticed leaves and branch tips up high on the prune plum (Prunus domestica) and the chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) getting nibbled down to nubbins, my first thought was, “Oh no, we have flying rabbits!”. After all, the only other suspect, and equally unlikely though at least known to exist, would be a deer…on campus…in the middle of the city. Not likely. Well, likely or not, there it was one recent morning, a deer in the Medicinal Herb Garden.

Black tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus ssp. columbianus) in section B, not a flying rabbit after all.
Someone is a little camera shy.
That’s the garden shed in the background. S/he wisely chose to avoid crossing Stevens Way and took off for the woods beneath the heron rookery…









…but soon returned to the woods north of Cascara Circle, where we first met. Note the birch tree on the left. Some day there will be a bench there for deer viewing.
Couldn’t ask for a more compliant model. Deer are very good at standing still for a long time.
Lounging west of Cascara Circle, within sight of Benson Hall on late Thursday morning, much later than I would expect a deer to be out in the open in the city.








After knocking off a couple of chokeberry bushes, it’s time to rest and digest and…
…leave the garden some fertilizer.


It’s an open question, how it will work out in the garden with rabbits and deer eating many of the plants. Their pressure will almost certainly drive plant selection as I begin to exclude plants that get eaten repeatedly. It’s definitely a dynamic situation and a learning opportunity.

That’s the news. If you see beds that are a bit sparse, look closely and you might see signs of herbivory by our new residents. Or, if you visit during the twilit hours and remain still long enough you might just see an actual deer or rabbit out grazing, or a coyote, or some day, maybe even a mountain lion. The Burke-Gilman Trail that enables the four-footed herbivores to travel easily through the city, provides the same service to the four-footed carnivores. All in good time…





twilight visitors

get up early or come late

stand still and see them




See you in the garden.