Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that produces large, tart stalks that are often used in pies, jams, and other foods. The large, rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid and other toxins that can be harmful if consumed. This leads many gardeners to wonder – do deer eat rhubarb plants? Well, let’s explorer the answer of this interesting question.
Deer Behavior Towards Rhubarb
Deer are herbivores and will sample different plants in the environment to meet their nutritional needs or satisfy curiosity. However, deer tend to avoid plants high in toxins that will make them sick. Fortunately, the high oxalic acid content in rhubarb leaves deters deer from consuming more than a small taste.
Deer may nibble or lick rhubarb leaves to determine if they are palatable. But similar to humans, deer find the tart taste of oxalic acid unpleasant. After tasting the leaves, deer will move on to tastier options in a garden rather than consuming enough rhubarb to cause harm.
While deer may sample or lightly damage rhubarb leaves, extensive feeding or grazing on rhubarb is rare. The stalks of rhubarb contain less oxalic acid than the leaves, but still have a very tart, unpleasant taste that deer dislike.
See Also: Do deer eat tomato plants ?
Other Animals That May Feed on Rhubarb
While deer tend to avoid rhubarb, other animals may show more interest in this perennial plant:
Rabbits: Rabbits are fond of a wide variety of garden plants and may nibble on rhubarb leaves. Fortunately, they are unlikely to cause serious damage.
Woodchucks: These large rodents are constantly grazing and may take an experimental bite of rhubarb. But they generally focus on more appetizing options.
Insects: Some insects like cabbage worms may feed on rhubarb leaves, especially young plants. But most mature rhubarb plants can tolerate some insect damage without problems.
Rodents: Mice may chew on rhubarb leaves or tender crowns over winter. Prevent access by minimizing hiding spots and trimming back foliage.
So while deer avoid rhubarb, minor animal pest damage may occur. Fortunately, established rhubarb plants can tolerate light to moderate grazing.
Keeping Animals Away from Rhubarb
If you need to actively deter deer and other wildlife from sampling your rhubarb, there are several effective options:
- Fencing around the garden
- Individual plant cages/covers
- Raised garden beds with hardware cloth underneath
- Strong-smelling organic repellents using things like garlic, eggs, or hot peppers
- Commercial animal repellent sprays
- Scare Tactics
- Wind chimes
- Shiny ribbons or objects blowing in wind
- Fake predator decoys like owls or coyotes
A combination of fencing and natural repellents offers the best protection. Focus efforts on deterring animals from late fall through winter when gardens have less natural food sources available.
Caring for Lightly Grazed Rhubarb Plants
Rhubarb is quite resilient to minor leaf damage from curious animals. But if your plants experience moderate grazing:
Remove and discard damaged leaves
Apply a nitrogen-based fertilizer to help regrow foliage
Protect crowns and roots from exposure
Ensure adequate soil moisture
Monitor plant health
As long as the roots remain healthy, rhubarb will continue to send up new leaves and stalks each spring.
So while deer tend to shun this tasty pie plant, other animals may take a nibble. Fortunately, rhubarb’s toxins and terrible taste limit feeding damage for even the hungriest garden raiders.