Ask a Question forum: Flowers stems broken clean, left on ground. What animal does that?

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Deenebean13
May 16, 2017 7:10 AM CST
Hi!
I keep finding my purple salvia flowers and bee balm leaf stems broken clean off and just left in the flower bed. I don't know what animal does that-it looks like a clean break and nothing looks to have been chewed.
Does anyone have ideas? I'd love to know so I can defend my plants against this masked marauder.
Photos below-I added bird spikes & powdered deer repellent just before taking the photo but after the attack!

Thanks!

Thumb of 2017-05-16/Deenebean13/a89ffe
Thumb of 2017-05-16/Deenebean13/cc6334

Name: Abbey
Eastern New York State (Zone 6a)
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Garden10
May 16, 2017 7:39 AM CST
Welcome! I had planter boxes of purple salvia on my deck a few years ago, and came out one morning to find each one beheaded, and the flower lying in the dirt next to where it once stood. I almost thought it was the lunatic kid next door, because it was creepy! But I found out it was birds -- I usually don't have trouble with birds ( Crossing Fingers! ), I feed them and I put pinwheels up, and that seems to ward them off. I didn't have a pinwheel on these because it was awkward, but I replanted the box and put one in and no problem. I don't have salvia this year, but I do have bee balm in containers with pinwheels and so far, so good! HTH!
"Every now and then I leave the book on the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds from which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of what is worth bothering about, and what is not." The Solitary Summer -- Elizabeth von Arnim
[Last edited by Garden10 - May 19, 2017 7:21 AM (+)]
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
May 16, 2017 7:58 AM CST
Welcome!

If not birds, another critter I've seen do this is voles. They quickly sever the plant at the base (doesn't look especially chewed) and either leave the bits there or drag them off into some nearby cover. If you find a collection of plant bits hidden under a juniper or something, that's likely what it is. We actually blamed chipmunks until we caught a vole red-pawed.
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
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crawgarden
May 16, 2017 8:02 AM CST
In the top photo it looks like the stem has been sheared at an angle, if so prob a rabbit. The pellatized repellant has never worked for me, only the liquid has been effective
Welcome!
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Eastern Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
jsf67
May 16, 2017 8:05 AM CST
When rabbits ate my Hostas last summer, I didn't look too closely for bite marks. I didn't see any, but that doesn't mean they weren't there.

What was notable and relevant to your question was that every stalk was cut off near ground level and the combination of leaf plus upper portion of the stalk was just left whole on the ground. At most one bite was taken through the bottom of each stalk. So many large plants were destroyed while only a tiny amount was eaten.

Around the same time, I also had deer eating Hostas and they eat a larger fraction of what they destroy. Between deer and rabbits, they destroyed 100% before I had time to buy any repellent. This year, I'm using a lot of repellent and so far nothing ate any Hostas.

My losses this spring:
I transplanted a lot of Campanula from scattered places where rabbits had ignored it to one spot near the front door and came out early the next morning to see a rabbit finishing it all off (totally eaten, no scraps left). I have sprayed repellent repeatedly on the small recovery those have made and nothing ate it again.
Viola I transplanted many years ago always gets eaten 80% or more. I never figured out by what (ground hog, insects, birds?). I used a lot of repellent and it made no difference. It was eaten even faster this year and never flowered at all. The same plant was thriving and flowering in the front lawn where nothing ever eats it (until it was slightly damaged by the weed-and-feed that I used this year first time ever, which fortunately did far more harm to dandelions and blue bugle, which were the dominant components of the "lawn").
I transplanted slightly rooted branches of Rhododendron to the back years ago, where in past winters deer would take all the leaves when the snow was just the right depth to suddenly make those appetizing. Nothing ever touches the giant Rhododendrons in front that those came from. Repellent or luck kept the deer from those this winter. Something has been gradually nibbling on those this spring, ultimately taking several whole leaves and parts of other leaves. Likely insects, but I'm not sure. Doesn't look like the way deer eat.
One or more rabbits ate several plants in the front garden that I never identified. More likely than not, I would have decided those were weeds if I had figured out what they were. One rabbit got very bold and just sat there eating while I was nearby. But I don't normally wear my glasses, hadn't yet done any work in the part of the garden the rabbit was eating in and never had any guess what it ate.
[Last edited by jsf67 - May 16, 2017 8:55 AM (+)]
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Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
May 16, 2017 8:08 AM CST
Deer would eat the whole plant.
Possibly cut worms. But as far as i know, cut worms only be-head seedlings when seeds first sprout. Put 1 or 2 tooth picks, close as you can, to stem. That stops them.

@Garden10 : Abbey, you have me curious, as to what kind of bird
be-heads plants, and why. Thank you.
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Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
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CarolineScott
May 16, 2017 8:12 AM CST
Magpies and crows did my tulips that way!!
Name: Abbey
Eastern New York State (Zone 6a)
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Garden10
May 16, 2017 8:24 AM CST
@Philipwonel Hey Philip! I used to, until VERY recently, refer to a lot of birds as "chippies," a family word for chipping sparrows that was used to describe everything from house finches to wrens to chickadees, so it was one of those birds, the idea was, and remember, I'm parroting (man, that was completely coincidental, I swear!) what was told to me, that they eat the seeds, and it is much easier to make quick work of it if the flower is down on the ground than standing upright! Shrug!

@Sooby Red-pawed! Hilarious! Voles are a new one on my hit parade, I was completely ew-ed last fall to find several dead hairy grey mice accompanied by dead babies, on the floor of my garage over the course of two-three months -- it was the painter who told me they were voles. Eesh!
"Every now and then I leave the book on the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds from which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of what is worth bothering about, and what is not." The Solitary Summer -- Elizabeth von Arnim
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
May 16, 2017 8:36 AM CST
Garden10 said:

@ Sooby Red-pawed! Hilarious! Voles are a new one on my hit parade, I was completely ew-ed last fall to find several dead hairy grey mice accompanied by dead babies, on the floor of my garage over the course of two-three months -- it was the painter who told me they were voles. Eesh!


Yes, they look like larger mice with short tails and they can do a lot of damage to plants. They love hostas and can devour all the roots over winter. Often other critters get the blame because they're more visible, but voles are sneaky and hard to spot. If we hadn't seen this little guy run out and nip the plants off at the base and scurry off with them (or drop them if disturbed in the process) we'd never have known it was voles that were the culprit.


Deenebean13
May 17, 2017 8:04 AM CST
That's interesting-I think it is the birds. They are pretty much the only critters i've seen in the yard this year. Pesky birds!! I'll have to get some pinwheels and reflective tape. Hate to 'junk' up the yard w that stuff though.

Thanks for the feedback!

Name: Abbey
Eastern New York State (Zone 6a)
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Garden10
May 17, 2017 8:15 AM CST
Glad we could help, me especially, based on knowledge culled from experience in my yard o' junk! Grumbling

I'm teasing you, you can effectively keep them at bay without the yard looking like you wee in it, or that you're emulating the short runway at Laguardia! Green Grin!
"Every now and then I leave the book on the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds from which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of what is worth bothering about, and what is not." The Solitary Summer -- Elizabeth von Arnim
Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
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keithp2012
May 17, 2017 9:20 AM CST
I'm guessing Squirrels or raccoons.
Eastern Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
jsf67
May 17, 2017 1:16 PM CST
I just finished spraying deer and rabbit repellent on new growth. I don't know if any deer or rabbits are even there anymore. I haven't seen any in quite a while. I don't know whether a plant is protected by the smell lingering on the earlier growth or whether the new growth needs to be covered.

I ended up with my hand smelling of it, which never happened before, even though I think I didn't spill any. A few washings with soap only toned it down. Fortunately it isn't even a bad smell (the overwhelming clove variety). Just psychologically the fact that I can smell it is annoying.

The deer were there frequently a year ago, but not recently. I never saw more than one rabbit at once but by general logic and amount of damage assumed it is never just one. All last summer, any time I came to the front yard through the front door or around either side of the house, I heard (occasionally saw) the rabbit bolt for cover under the giant Rhododendron. Weeks ago, the rabbit was much less skittish. One of the last times I saw it (long after I had soaked everything I thought it ate in repellent) it continued calmly eating something I never identified (and hadn't sprayed) when I came out. Recently I haven't seen or heard it. Maybe it was getting desperate for food after the repellent worked on its favorite items and/or the path between most places and the rhododendrons crosses the full line of sprayed Hostas that I haven't even see it cross much less eat. Hopefully such measures made the whole yard too uncomfortable and it finally moved away.
North Central TX (Zone 8a)
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tx_flower_child
May 17, 2017 8:40 PM CST
Hello and welcome!

I vote for squirrels unless you live in an area that has a lot of other critters. I have a lot of birds and don't think they've damaged any plants. (But watch for a post from me on this general subject. I'm having trouble uploading a picture.)

Deenebean13
May 19, 2017 7:18 AM CST
Thank You!
Eastern Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
jsf67
May 19, 2017 8:44 AM CST
My yard has a massive number of squirrels and chipmunks and they run around all day summer and winter. I've never seen them eating any plants.

We have a big Oak tree and LOTS of acorn caps in and on the dirt, but never any acorns and near zero Oak seedlings. So I expect squirrels are very fast at finding acorns and discarding the caps.

Beyond that, they dig in the dirt a lot, generally far from growing plants and seem to find something to eat, but it is hard to tell what. I hope it is bugs. I planted a lot of Hardy Hibiscus seeds last fall (gift from a friend). I saw that a squirrel found some of them. ZERO have sprouted this spring so more likely squirrels found all of them.

But anyway, based on the behavior I observe, I don't think squirrels are munching through the base of plant stems, the way I know rabbits do.
Name: Three guesses...
Decatur, IL (Zone 6a)
CindySue
May 19, 2017 9:02 AM CST
Interesting...cutting and LEAVING them either sounds like they were weed wacked or, if you're sure they weren't, then I'd say something needed the moisture in the stem which could be just about anything. Is there any water in the area for wildlife?
[Last edited by CindySue - May 19, 2017 9:05 AM (+)]
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Frillylily
May 19, 2017 9:13 AM CST
I have had birds tear up my iris blooms. They do not harm the plant. So birds can do silly things. I guess they are either after the moisture (dew) on them in the mornings, or maybe they see the petals moving in a breeze as some kind of threat? Maybe they are attracted to the scent? I just don't know.

Name: Three guesses...
Decatur, IL (Zone 6a)
CindySue
May 19, 2017 9:33 AM CST
Frillylily said:I have had birds tear up my iris blooms. They do not harm the plant. So birds can do silly things. I guess they are either after the moisture (dew) on them in the mornings, or maybe they see the petals moving in a breeze as some kind of threat? Maybe they are attracted to the scent? I just don't know.



That's interesting. Birds WILL "mob" a threat. I've seen several species work together to mob a large, grounded owl with a broken wing. On the other hand, animals know the difference between plants and other animals.

[Last edited by CindySue - May 19, 2017 9:35 AM (+)]
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Name: Nora
Castlegar, B. C. Canada (Zone 5b)
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HemNorth
May 20, 2017 3:29 PM CST
My vote is for the voles. About 6 years ago, I bought a number of flats of different colours of Viola cornuta. Before I could get them in the ground, I noticed that when I moved the trays, I would find little piles of snipped off flowers and foliage, hidden here and there. I noticed a hole beside the concrete of the foundation, and kept an eye on it now and then, and several times saw voles disappear down, with a flower or foliage stem. Traps were set, and quite a few voles were trapped.

I just noticed another few piles forming, after returning from the Okanagan with some more flats of Pansies this time.
Shall have to get out the new scented plastic traps, and see if they work.

I do mentally tell the voles that they are in danger, and to move along if they value their lives. We do however also have tunnelling Moles, that produce the runways for the voles and mice to get under the Daylilies and other fleshy plant roots. They seem to have a ball underground. I've lost some favourite Daylilies the last few winters: Jason Salter, First Knight, Golden Prize, Shady Lady, Night Beacon, Mae Graham, and Yazoo Wild Violet.

Last fall, we tried something new: cutting out the bottoms of one and 2 gallon pots and crimping a wire mesh around the outside of the pot before inserting it into the area where the tunnels are extensive. Two or three fans that escaped the ravages of the rodents, were planted in the submerged pots. We'll see how they make out this summer.
So far this spring, we've caught 3 Moles in the Tunnel Traps.

When the Elk came this spring, (just after the snow left and many rains turned the ground to mush), they sunk into a number of the tunnels, especially near the edge of the bank. It looked like a war zone there for awhile. When it was dry enough, my garden helper stuffed moth balls and cayenne into the holes and filled them up with new soil on top. I hope the voles won't feel quite so welcome anymore.

Apparently the moles are after grubs, and create the tunnels that the voles then use as their stomping grounds for harvesting any roots that dangle down in front of them.

We'll see how this works out. I do love the wealth of flowers that I've brought to this small and final garden. I feel such a burst of gratitude for the plants that do well. I wish we could all work in harmony. Whistling

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