U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service



Kent M. Eskridge

Date of this Version



Published in Hortechnology.


Nontimber forest products (food, herbal medicinals, and woody floral and handicraft products) produced in forest, agroforestry, and horticultural systems can be important sources of income to landowners. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can reduce the quality, quantity, and profitability of forest products by browsing twigs and rubbing stems, resulting in direct and indirect losses to production enterprises. We evaluated deer damage (frequency and intensity of browsing and rubbing) sustained by 26 species of trees and shrubs, the relationships among morphological features of trees and shrubs to damage levels, and the economic impacts of deer damage on the production of nontimber forest products. Levels of browsing were high (frequency >93% and intensity >50%) in most species of trees and shrubs, with the highest intensity (>60%) occurring in chinese chestnut (Castanea mollisima) and dogwood (Cornus spp.), and the lowest (Ginkgo biloba), curly willow (Salix matsudana), ‘Scarlet Curls’ curly willow, smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), and pussy willow (Salix caprea). Species of trees or shrubs with one or a few stout stems unprotected by dense branching [e.g., american elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), smooth sumac, and curly willow] sustained the most damage by rubbing. Trees and shrubs with many small diameter stems or with dense tangled branching [e.g. redozier dogwood (Cornus sericea), forsythia (Forsythia suspensa), ‘Flame’ willow (Salix alba), and ‘Streamco’ basket willow (Salix purpurea)] were damaged the least by rubbing. Annual economic costs of deer damage to producers of nontimber forest products can range from $26/acre for pussy willow to $1595/acre for curly willow.