On Monday morning I noticed that one of the yarrow flowers had been neatly cut, and was lying on the ground. Odd, I thought. Why would someone cut one of my flowers, and then why leave it behind after doing so?
Figuring out which culprit is eating our plants can be tricky. However, anyone watching CSI knows that that the perpetrators always leave clues. Did the rabbit eat my yarrow? Just because he was hopping around the scene of the crime, I can’t pin it on him by association. I’ll need more evidence to convict him.
This is an easy case. Because of the way their teeth are arranged, rabbit bites always leave a 45° angle. I went back and took another look at the drying flower. Sure enough, both flower (top) and stem stub had matching 45° angles.
We have lots of rabbits hopping around our yard. Irked that they’re dining on expensive new plants, we asked the HOA for permission to add a 1-inch chicken wire band to the inside of the board fence on that side of our lot. (Rabbits can run right through larger openings—one of several impressive talents, along with the ability to produce offspring every time they mate.) Barriers are the most effective means of control, but most are somewhat unsightly. Not surprisingly, the HOA said no.
My new veggie planters are made of decorative building blocks (“rumble stone”), and are quite high. I wanted the wide edges at a comfortable level for sitting and working the soil (I’m not getting any younger), but I’m also hoping the rabbits won’t jump into the beds. I’ll find out if the sides are high enough once my newly seeded lettuce comes up.
When I chose plants for my butterfly garden, “rabbit resistant” was one of my criteria. No plant is completely rabbit proof—they’ll even eat plastic fences, flower pots, and wooden decks! But since we have a bumper crop of bunnies this year, I did some research and tried to pick species that are on the less tasty side.
What don’t rabbits like (as much)? Plants with strong flavors or scents, such as salvias and mints. tend to discourage these munchers. They also prefer to avoid thorns, prickles, and tough, leathery leaves. I don’t blame them! If the animal is hungry enough, it will eat poisonous plants, but only as a last resort. And they are supposed to dislike plants with milky sap, such as milkweed and euphorbias. On the other hand, rabbits are crazy about lettuce, milky sap notwithstanding.
Yarrow is on most lists of resistant plants, and clearly that wasn’t enough to save my flower. However, it’s notable that the rabbit didn’t actually eat the flower, so perhaps the rest of the yarrow plants are safe, now that he knows they taste bad.
Frustratingly enough, rabbits are attracted to new plants—those recently purchased or transplanted. Perhaps the plants are stressed by the move, and stressed plants seem to advertise that they’re available for consumption. Or maybe the rabbits are just trying to drive us crazy.
Some people try to discourage rabbit nibbling by spraying their plants with evil smelling concoctions or pureed and diluted hot peppers. Some of these might work for a time—if you purchase a product, be sure it lists rabbits on the label. Most wash off in the rain, and will need to be reapplied. And what works in one yard may not work in another—just as we don’t all like the same foods, some bunnies are pickier than others.
I can see that a battle is shaping up between me and the cottontails. I’ll probably be ranting about damaged plants for years to come. The bunnies are everywhere, and I’ve only seen one coyote so far. Nevertheless, there’s a bright spot. Our three-year-old granddaughter was thrilled by the bunnies in our yard, and wants to pet them all. I’m willing to sacrifice a few flowers and veggies to see that happy smile on her face!