Do Deer Eat Dogwood Trees? (and Ways to PROTECT Your Property from Deer)

I was fascinated to discover that deer, despite not usually considering dogwood trees a food source, may resort to consuming their leaves and bark when food is scarce. If you’re a nature lover like me, you’ll want to protect your dogwoods from hungry deer. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to safeguard these beautiful trees.

Do Deer Eat Dogwood Trees?

Deer are known to consume a variety of plants, but they do not typically seek out dogwood trees as a food source. In fact, Dogwood is considered to be mildly resistant to deer. However, if food is scarce, deer will not hesitate to eat dogwood leaves and bark. This can be damaging to the tree, especially if it is young or already weakened by disease or pests. To prevent deer from damaging your dogwood trees, measures such as installing fencing, using repellents, or planting deer-resistant species alongside them can be taken.

Are Dogwoods Resistant to Deer?

If you have a dogwood tree on your property and are concerned about deer damage, it’s important to understand the degree of resistance your tree may have. The dogwood’s level of deer-resistance can vary depending on various factors such as its species, stage of growth, and surroundings. Certain types of dogwood are known to be more impervious to deer than others, like the Kousa, Pink, Red Osier, or Red Twigged variations.

Understanding the Extent of Deer Resistance in Dogwood Trees

To better understand the level of deer resistance in dogwood trees, it’s crucial to consider the different factors that affect the extent of deer browsing. When considering the species itself, different varieties of dogwoods have varying levels of resistance. For example, the flowering dogwood and the alternate-leaved dogwood are two species known to be less deer-resistant. Factors such as soil moisture, soil nutrient levels, tree age, and stress can also affect the level of deer resistance in dogwood trees.

Factors Affecting the Deer Resistance of Dogwood Trees

The extent of deer resistance in dogwood trees is not only determined by the species of the tree but also by the environment in which it grows. For example, trees growing in open or exposed areas may be more vulnerable to deer browsing than trees growing in more natural settings. Tree age and the presence of other food sources for deer can also affect the level of deer resistance in dogwood trees.

Which Dogwood Species are the Most and Least Deer Resistant?

When selecting a dogwood tree, it’s essential to choose one of the more deer-resistant varieties. The most deer-resistant dogwood species are Red Osier dogwood, Kousa dogwood, Pink dogwood, and Red Twigged dogwood. These species are known to produce fruit that deer do not prefer, and their tough and fibrous bark makes it harder for deer to graze on them. On the other hand, the least deer-resistant species of dogwood include the alternate-leaved dogwood, flowering dogwood, and panicled dogwood.

Red Osier Dogwood

Red Osier dogwood is known for its resilience and adaptability to different growing conditions. Red Osier dogwood can grow up to 10 feet tall and is often used for landscaping and erosion control. Its fruit is not palatable to deer, and its tough, fibrous bark makes it less vulnerable to grazing.

Kousa Dogwood

Kousa dogwood is an excellent choice for a deer-resistant tree with a stunning floral display. This species is known for its hardy nature, making it resistant to pests, diseases, and deer browsing. It produces a small, inedible fruit that deer do not prefer, making it less of a target.

Pink Dogwood

Pink dogwood is considered one of the more deer-resistant species of dogwood. With its beautiful pink flowers and resistance to deer browsing, it’s a great option for someone looking for an aesthetically pleasing and low-maintenance tree. Pink dogwood produces small fruits that are not palatable to deer.

Red Twigged Dogwood

Red Twigged dogwood is an excellent option for those looking for a colorful and deer-resistant shrub. This species produces small white flowers in the spring and vibrant red bark, making it an attractive addition to any landscape.

Its hardy and fibrous bark makes it less vulnerable to deer browsing, and it produces a fruit that deer do not prefer. In conclusion, while deer do not typically target dogwood trees, it’s important to consider the variety of dogwood species and their level of deer resistance.

Bloodtwig Dogwood

Bloodtwig Dogwood is one of the least deer-resistant dogwood species you can have in your garden or landscape. Although deer tend to avoid dogwood trees as a food source, should they become scarce, they will eat them whether the dogwood is young or already weakened by pests or disease. Bloodtwig Dogwood has an occasional tendency of suffering severe damage from the deer, but it remains more deer-resistant than many types of plants, shrubs, and trees. Therefore, if you want to use Bloodtwig Dogwood in your garden or landscape, take the necessary steps to prevent deer from browsing.

Alternate-Leaved Dogwood

Like Bloodtwig Dogwood, the deer tend to avoid the Alternate-Leaved Dogwood as a food source. But they can eat this tree should they become scarce for food sources. This dogwood species is deer-resistant, but not as much as other species on the list. At times, deer can cause severe damage to the Alternate-Leaved Dogwood, hence the need to protect it from deer browsing.

Panicled Dogwood

Panicled Dogwood is also one of the least deer-resistant dogwood species. While it is not a popular food source for deer, they can eat its buds and leaves should other food sources become scarce. Because of this, the Panicled Dogwood tree can be subjected to severe damage from deer occasionally. However, it is still deer-resistant, and its beauty makes it a popular choice for gardeners and landscapers.

Silky Dogwood

Silky Dogwood can be a valuable tree to have in your garden or landscape because of its erosion control and water retention capabilities. And while deer do not eat it often, they will eat its leaves and branches if other food sources become scarce. Nonetheless, the Silky Dogwood is still more deer-resistant than many other tree species. Therefore, it is a wise choice for planting in areas where deer are prevalent.

How To Protect Dogwood Trees From Deer?

Dogwood trees can become a prime target for deer, especially when other food sources are scarce. The following section explores various tree protection methods that garden and landscapers have used to protect their dogwood trees from deer browsing.

Physical Barriers

Physical barriers can range from electric fencing to tall fence walls to protect your trees from deer damage. Fencing can be expensive and time-consuming to install, but it is the most effective protection method for dogwood trees. An electric fence is a great option as it can protect large areas and lead to fewer deer fatalities.

Mesh Guards

One common and cost-effective way garden and landscapers have protected their dogwood trees from deer is through the use of mesh guards. Mesh guards typically come in rolls that you can cut to size to wrap around the trunk of your dogwood tree. This method keeps the deer from browsing on the bark that can cause significant harm to your tree.

Natural Repellents

Many natural deer repellents like chew stop or predator urine can be an effective way of preventing deer damage to your dogwood trees. These natural repellents can be applied to the tree leaves, bark, or even the soil surrounding the tree. However, they can become less effective over time, especially during rainy seasons.

Companion Planting and Netting

Another effective way to protect your dogwood trees from deer is by planting other deer-resistant species of trees. Placing plants like boxwoods, hollies, and junipers around your dogwood tree can deter deer from approaching them. You can also use netting to cover the plants, making it difficult for the deer to reach the tree’s leaves, branches, and bark. This method is most effective over small areas, and it is weather-dependent.

Use visual deterrents

You can use various visual deterrents to scare deer from approaching your garden. This includes using reflective surfaces, such as old CDs, streamers, or flags, to create light and movement that will frighten the deer.

Install motion-activated sprinklers

Motion sensors that trigger lights or sprinklers can be effective in scaring deer from the garden. This method works well as it creates a sudden noise and movement, which can startle the deer.

Use electronic repellents

Electronic repellents are designed to deter deer with sound or light stimuli. Ultrasonic devices, for instance, produce high-frequency sounds that are unsavory to deer.

Get a dog

A well-trained dog can be an effective and natural deterrent to deer. Their presence and smell alone can keep the deer away, given that dogs are known to prey on deer.

Will Dogwoods Come Back After Deer Eat Them?

It is common for dogwood trees to experience significant damage from deer browsing on them. This can cause the trees to lose their leaves, suffer from dieback, or even die altogether.

However, if the damage is not severe and the tree is healthy, it is possible for new growth to emerge from the damaged branches in the following year. The extent of the damage will determine the tree’s ability to recover, but in general, dogwood trees can come back after being eaten by deer, especially if they are well-cared for.

If your dogwood tree has been severely damaged, it is important to take steps to protect it from further browsing. You can do this by wrapping the trunk or branches with a protective barrier, creating a physical barrier such as a mesh fence, or planting deer-resistant species nearby. By taking these measures, you can give your dogwood tree the best chance of recovering and thriving once again.

Alternatives to Dogwood Trees

Trees that are Known for their Deer Resistance

  • Redbud: This small, flowering tree is known for its pink or purple blooms in the spring, as well as its resistance to deer browsing. It thrives in full sun or partial shade and requires minimal maintenance.
  • Eastern Red Cedar: This evergreen tree is highly resistant to deer browsing and can grow up to 40 feet tall. It provides year-round interest with its fragrant foliage and attractive cones.
  • American Holly: This ornamental tree features glossy, dark green leaves and bright red berries in the winter. It is very resistant to deer browsing and thrives in full sun or partial shade.
  • Japanese Maple: This small, ornamental tree has striking foliage that ranges from bright red to deep purple. It is resistant to deer browsing and prefers partial shade and well-drained soil.
  • Birch: This tall, skinny tree features attractive bark and delicate foliage. It is resistant to deer browsing and thrives in full sun or light shade.

Pros and Cons of Using Alternatives to Dogwood Trees

While dogwood trees are a popular choice for many homeowners due to their attractive flowers and ease of maintenance, there are many other tree species that are highly resistant to deer browsing.

These species offer a variety of benefits, including year-round interest, colorful foliage, and attractive bark. However, it is important to note that some alternatives may require more maintenance or have different growth habits than dogwood trees. Additionally, some species may be more difficult to find or more expensive to purchase than others.

Ultimately, the choice of which tree species to plant in your yard depends on your personal preferences, as well as the specific growing conditions in your area. Whether you choose a dogwood tree or an alternative species, be sure to take steps to protect your trees from deer browsing to ensure that they remain healthy and beautiful for years to come.


So, do deer eat dogwood trees? The answer is not a straightforward one, as it depends on the availability of other food sources. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting your dogwood trees from hungry deer.

By taking measures such as installing fencing, using repellents, or planting deer-resistant species alongside them, you can ensure that your dogwood trees remain healthy and unharmed. So, go ahead and adorn your property with these beautiful trees without worrying about deer causing damage.

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