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January 10, 2021 2 min read

Do deer eat holly berries? Sure, holly berries can be toxic sometimes. However, you might be particularly concerned as you search for landscape plants that won’t be bothered by deer.

If you live in areas with a high level of deer, then your search for landscape plants you can cultivate without worry is critical. Some plants can be severely damaged by deer, while others find a way to bounce back. While searching, you may also consider hollies, especially since their berries are poisonous to humans and animals. So, do deer eat holly berries?

Deer and holly berries

At first glance, the answer is no. Deer will not eat holly berries or the holly plant. Besides the toxins, deer dislike holly plants because they have short spiny ends and thick, glossy evergreen leaves. Although deer will eat anything, they don’t like pungent plants with milky sap, sharp thorns, woolly, fuzzy, prickly leaves, and bitter taste. However, some hollies are not as effective as others. The American holly and Morrissey are excellent choices because of their high deer damage ratings. In sharp contrast, Asian holly and European holly may not be great ideas because they don’t have good deer resistance ratings.

When holly berries can be eaten

Although deer will not choose holly berries on a regular day, winter is a different matter. When it becomes hard to find their more desirable food choices during the harsher months, deer might feed on holly berries. You can determine if the deer did the damage through:

Deer droppings – these are usually small, round, and black pits.

Tracks – deer might leave heart-shaped tracks. If the soil is moist and inches deep with snow, then the imprint might look like a cylindrical hole

Eating pattern – deer usually start from the top when eating. You can identify that deer have been through your holly bush by the amount of food they have eaten and their ability to concentrate on berries and leaves.

No need to panic

Luckily, hollies are one great plant choice that can rejuvenate quickly, even after extensive damage. Therefore, if you find your hollies chowed down, there is no need to panic. Your hollies will recover in time before summer next year. Do note that all kinds of hollies do not share this ability to rejuvenate. In particular, American holly, John T. Morris holly, and Lydia Morris have higher recovery rates. In sharp contrast, Asian holly, Winterberry holly, Inkberry holly, European holly, and many others may take a longer time to recover. Other hollies that are not well suited, but fall somewhere in the middle, include Japanese holly, blue holly, and prenyl holly.

Concluding thoughts

Do deer eat holly berries? Not if they can help it. Holly berries can cause them great discomfort, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, deer can eat holly berries during winter, when it becomes challenging to find something else. The bottom line is that there is no one permanent way to deter deer from using deer-resistant plants.

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