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January 20, 2021 3 min read

Do deer eat Japanese maple trees? This is the question you might ask if you wish to cultivate the gorgeous Japanese maples in your property.

There are hundreds of Japanese maple tree varieties in an assortment of sizes, leaf shapes, and colors ranging from orange to green, red, purple, and many more. It’s no wonder many grow them to spice up their landscape. We can also use Japanese maples for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Growing Japanese maple trees requires several years and is expensive. So you might want to protect them, especially when they are young. While you can quickly put together a list of insects and pests to be on the lookout for, you may also consider four-legged creatures like deer. So the big question is – do deer eat Japanese maple trees?
Japanese maple trees: deer resistant or edibles

Hardiness classifications list Japanese maples as deer resistant. So on the surface, deer do not eat Japanese maple trees. But, it is not always the case. If your Japanese maples are native to the location, there’s a high chance your local deer population may develop an affinity for their taste. In areas with a high deer population and lack of other deer-palatable food sources, they might also eat them. However, many growers have reported that deer eat their young maple trees, but would often leave the older ones. Deer love young, heavily fertilized shoots. All sorts of new growth are always palatable, even when it comes from deer-resistant species.

Deer can also cause damage to older maple trees, but not through eating them down. Deer love the shades that the maple trees can provide and often spend time rubbing their forehead and antlers against the tree trunk. This can cause significant damage, which might eventually kill the tree.

Nevertheless, deer will eat anything in a bad winter, which means that your Japanese maples can become susceptible to deer damage if they cannot find anything else.

Japanese maples cost too much to replace. Therefore, you need to take preventive steps to keep deer away from your Japanese maples.

How to keep deer away from your maple trees

Protective netting

Consider using protective plastic or mesh netting to keep your young maples safe from deer. You can also use chicken wire cages as well. When using them, ensure to give ample space for your Japanese maples to grow, so you don’t have to change them every few months.

Use containers at the early stage

Use containers to plant your maples on your deck, patio, or other spots near your home. You can use glazed ceramic pots or plastic pots for this purpose. When your Japanese maples get big enough, you can transfer them to the ground.

Install a fence

Although installing a fence is expensive, it is the most reliable way to keep deer away from your maples. Already, you are spending thousands of dollars on your plants. So you should seriously consider installing one to reduce the number of nibbles and avoid the cost of replacing it. Also, bear in mind that your fence should be about 8ft tall to keep them away.

Concluding thoughts

To answer the question – do deer eat Japanese maple trees? Not really. However, deer can eat young Japanese maples and can also kill a maple tree by buck rubbing.

Since cultivating maples are awfully expensive, it is diligent in preventing them from reaching your maples in the first place.

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