QBARS - v8n3 Damage to Rhododendrons by Rabbits

Damage to Rhododendrons by Rabbits

American Gray Rabbit
Fig. 26  The American Gray Rabbit, a pest of
certain rhododendrons
R. Henny photo

During the past half dozen years I have heard occasional incidents where rhododendrons, azaleas and other evergreen plants have been badly damaged by rabbits. Most of this damage is done in the winter months when interest in the garden is at a low ebb, and when detected later in the spring considerable clipping is in evidence. Several reports from the State of Washington to the effect that rhododendron shoots were being literally devoured by these rabbits with the worst damage being reported from woodland type gardens, though several gardeners have stated that gardens near the outskirts of large cities have also been attacked.
I have become acutely aware of this pest during the last four years, when I first noticed extensive cropping in a bed of seedling rhododendrons. I was amazed at the neat regular trimming. All the remaining stubs were cleanly cut at an angle as if sliced with a sharp knife. In successive years the damage inflicted on certain seedlings has been considerable, and several select crosses are badly treated each winter by these marauders, others growing nearby are untouched. Azalea 'Rosea Flora Plena' and Gaultherias are also trimmed severely.

It was called to my attention this spring that camellias are not immune to attacks. A friend related to me that he was at a loss to explain this damage, and strongly suspected a neighbor of taking the cuttings.
The illustration shows a dispatched rabbit near a plant of R. 'Thomwilliams' where it had been feeding. This rabbit known as the American Gray Rabbit Lepus sylvaticus is not indigenous to this region, but was rather introduced by hound fanciers in recent years. There are two other native species of rabbit but neither do the damage of the Gray Rabbit. The Cotton-Tail Lepus Floridanus and the Jackass rabbit or Jackrabbit Lepus Collotis , Wagh.