Monday, May 16, 2011

Squirrels eating the Norway Maple

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the squirrels. While they are amusing to watch, they cause the most damage to the ‘cultivated’ parts of my landscape of any single creature in my backyard. They are constantly digging around new plants; they’ve dug up my single little huckleberry several times. I’ve been lucky in that they have not bothered my tulip or crocus bulbs, much.

Black Huckleberry in mid-April, has been dug up 2-3 times over 2 years.

On the positive side, I noted 3-4 years ago that I had fewer Norway maple seedlings to pull out of the lawn. Then that fall I saw the gray squirrels munching on the seeds, both in the lawn and in the rain gutters.  I understand that these seeds are not the first choice for the squirrels, but they are plentiful and easy to come by.

Squirrel dining on Norway Maple flowers.
Then a couple of weeks ago I saw a squirrel eating the flowers off the Norway maple. This was a new one on me, but anything that reduces the seed production gets a gold star in my book. I did a little checking on the web and found an interesting post by Albert Burchsted,  Apparently gray squirrels prefer the green flowers of the Norway maple over the reddish flowers of the Silver and Red Maples. The squirrels also prune the branch tips from several maple species, including the Norway, to get a drink of the rising sap. This explains the number of broken branch tips scattered on the lawn.

One other ‘destructive’ activity attributed to the squirrels is the snipping off of tulip flowers. While I have not actually seen the squirrels doing this, rabbits and/or birds may also share the blame, they seem to be likely candidates. The tulip flowers are neatly cut off at the base, leaving a mostly intact bloom to wither away nearby. While I have not been able to find my original source, I was told a while back that the animal doing this was after the condensation that collects inside the flower cup and not the flower itself. This creates a compelling image of a squirrel drinking from a tulip ‘cup’, but I would really like to see some proof.

Who did this, and why????
I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has caught an animal, squirrel or otherwise, in the act of tulip vandalism.