something chopping off most of my seedling trees & shrubs

Falling Waters, WV(Zone 7a)

HELP! For weeks now, I go out and find yet more newly-planted shrubs & trees, chopped off at a clean angle. Today it was a 3-ft plum seedling chopped 12" from the ground. Also a small 12" magnolia, chopped off about 4" down. Yesterday it was 5 PeeGee Hydrangea's (in a row of 6). The other magnolia and the other plum tree were intact (so far?!?!?). The day before, it was 1 of 3 two-foot tall Japanese Maples, and another one was cut the day before that.

I don't know if this is 1) some sort of beetle or wasp or bug (I have vague recollections reading of such thing), or 2) neighbor kids being devious, or 3) deer, or 4) some other problem.

Most of the time, the plant is simply chopped clean and either barely dangling or the amputated-part is laying nearby.

We live between Hagerstown Maryland and Martinsburg West Virginia.

Near Lake Erie, NW, PA(Zone 5a)

Wonder if you have a groundhog. They can clean out your plants before you know it, they love young plants.

Shenandoah Valley, VA

If it's a clean cut and the chopped off part isn't eaten, I'd say you've got a vandalism problem.

Near Lake Erie, NW, PA(Zone 5a)


I did a few searches for you.
Below is a quote for that site

"Rabbit damage can be identified by the characteristic appearance of gnawing on older woody growth and the clean-cut, angled clipping of young stems. Distinctive round droppings in the immediate area are a good sign of their presence too"

Sorry I can't get the links better for you but it might give you a start.

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6b)

Hi neighbor,

I could be wrong but DH said it wasn't likely deer at this time of year. Do you have any water near by? This sounds like the work of maybe a beaver. I have had rabbit problems in the past but they have usually munches on more tender plant material like my my lillies and young roses. I don't know much about groundhogs but they are also very much a nusiance. My neighbor said he has had groundhogs climb and bring down corn stalks before.


Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

We have a major bunny problem over here. I have to use garlic or pepper flakes around all my roses and new plants. I started to use liquid fence. They have a new one I got at my local feed store and it has garlic, putrified eggs,etc.... and kelp in it. It's all natural and safe to spray on foliage. It helps to feed plants too. Every time the bunnies get something it's usually a clean cut across a stem or leaves cut cleanly off the branches. I think chipmunks and squirrels do that kind of damage too. This stuff really stinks, but it works great. I think it depends on how desperate they are for what they eat. They grow for new growth first young tender crunchies! Hope this helps you!!! Happy gardening!

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

Even if it is vandelism, I think they would be scared of the smell.......maybe you could post little signs warning of poison......BEWARE TOXIC FUMES!!
It would be's stinky!

Prince Frederick, MD

I don't think tree squirrels would do the kind of damage you're describing at this time of year. They're much more interested in buds and young leaves in the treetops. They will get into strawberries and corn.

I've already had deer problems here in So. Maryland. They nailed all the pea vines in one night-- sheared them off a bit above ground level. Tracks all over the place.


Falling Waters, WV(Zone 7a)

Thanks to everyone for their great info! Yes rabbits seems like the most likely, it just seemed a bit high on some of the plants for rabbits but I guess if they stood up a little, that makes sense. We also do have deer that sleep in our back acre, most nights. Our neighbor said on Sunday that something had done the same with her pea vines, all sheared off a little above the ground.

Sometimes there's no sign of the upper part of the plant-- sometimes there is part of it-- but the plum tree was a clean angular cut with what looks like a possible single large tooth-mark on one side.

Hmmm.......... Vandals were one of my first thoughts, after the neighbor kid (who has helped plant half this stuff, this year) burst out laughing when I mentioned it and then caught himself, but then it was his mom whose pea plants were all nibbled down! lol

We had groundhogs all over here last year, but we totally leveled the mound where they were, then some moved under our front porch (lovely!), but there's no sign of them this year. Otherwise yes they did chomp off our new 6-foot cherry trees 2 years ago, right at the base!

I'd read about using rotten eggs (our free-range ducks sure leave enough laying around), also garlic and vinegar. For completeness here, I must add that I've heard that human urine will scare away some animals, as well! acck! Especially deer-- "supposedly!"

Washington, VA(Zone 7a)

I used to send my boys and my husband out at night to go pee around my garden beds. Sounds gross and I made sure they didn't actually do it IN my beds just around but it kept off most of the small furry plant carnivores. I would make sure that the night before I had fed them big huge steaks too to make sure they smelled like big carnivores. The boys thought it was funny and my husband said he felt a bit like a wolf marking his territory but it 's the same theory.

Falling Waters, WV(Zone 7a)

Ha ha yes, that and maybe a few beers for the adults would help in raising the fluid levels!

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images