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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Erythronium, Deer

Do deer commonly eat Erythronium (dog-tooth lily)? I enjoy them (the plants) in a semi-protected area near the house, but would like to put them in with ferns in an area where we know deer have eaten other plants. I don't want to spend the effort and money this fall if it is something they love.


There is probably no plant that deer won't at least try once. Dog-tooth lily is not the common name I've heard most often for this plant; it is more commonly known as dog-tooth violet or trout lily. Unfortunately, it looks like Erythronium is considered a delicacy, according to this U.S. Forest Service page on Erythronium grandiflorum, a species called glacier lily, but the same genus as dog-tooth violet. Here is an excerpt:

Glacier lily is an important forage for grizzly bears, which dig for the corms in spring. Ground squirrels will also feed on corms. Foliage is grazed by large ungulates such as sheep and cattle. In an Idaho study, glacier lily made up the bulk of mule deer diets during May.

In Idaho, mule deer ate disproportionate amounts of glacier lily compared to its availability, suggesting there was some preference for the lily. Bears will stray from their normal course of travel along ridges to seek out glacier lily corms. Glacier lily provides fair to poor forage for cattle, sheep, and horses, and fair graze for small mammals, deer, and elk.

There are lists available of plants deer "won't" eat (or won't like, once having tried them). Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Living with Wildlife website (based on the book of the same name by Russell Link) has additional information. If you scroll down, you will find a list of "Deer-Proof (or close to it) Plants for Washington Landscapes."

Date 2018-07-13
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May 31 2018 13:14:08