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.


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Beheaded tulips? Around here the primary culprit is usually the deer. If your garden isn't fenced, I'd expect deer. We've never been able to grow tulips here because of them. Thankfully, they avoid daffodils like the plague though, or spring would be much less colorful here!

Anonymous said...

I live in Michigan and have seen the squirrel's in action. They go up to the tulip and with their front paws pull the stem down to the tulip bulb... then use their teeth to 'snip' off the flower. They never eat the flower or do anything with it - just snip it off and run off. Half of my tulips have been victimized within 2 days of blooming this year.

It is very frustrating and sad to see the pretty flowers ruined!

Anonymous said...

I also live in Michigan and have seen this. Our neighbor feeds them, and so there is a great abundance of squirrels in my yard. They nip off just about every flower we have tried to grow (tulips, lilies, geraniums, daffodils, peonies, etc.). Sometimes they eat them and sometimes not. A big thank you to my neighbor!

Olga said...

I saw squirrels fooling around with my tulips. Species Tulips are supposed to be much easier to grow than cultivars but not for me. I never saw more than a few flowers on them. One day I noticed a squirrel breaking one of the tulip flowers. Almost immediately after this the squirrel climbed a tree breaking off the flower petals on its way up. I am still puzzled.
This year, however, I have more problems with rabbits after transforming my front yard to edible landscape which include berry shrubs, perennial and annual crops, as well as medicinal and culinary herbs. The annual vegetables I planted in between blueberries while they are small; so fencing was not an option for me. I learned that rabbit’s favorite food is: beans and peas, lettuce, pansies, liatris, and Elijah Blue Fescue, though they nib on almost any young shoots including hostas and asters. In winter they were munching on low bush blueberries. Now I have to spray garlic and Tabasco sauce solution every week plus after each rain to keep the rabbits away. There is still damage on the plants because they develop a habit feeding in my yard. I pulled the peas away since rabbits were munching on them constantly and replaced with marigolds and calendula. The creatures continue to come to the place and nib on the flowers hopping to find their favorite food.

Kathryn said...

The red squirrels have been very prolific this year in the Catskills of NY and for the first time, I noticed them removing the heads of first Gerbera daisies in an outside pot, and then all summer, they went after the large heads on my marigolds. I've found the heads strewn about the lawn and decorating the branches of my pine trees. I've seen them carrying the flowers in their mouths, but still can't figure out what is the attraction. Perhaps there are earwigs nestled in the dense petals that they are after? Nobody usually bothers marigolds - that's why I like them. We ended up trapping and relocating 5 squirrels, but the remaining squirrels have continued the damage.