By admin at Sep. 2. 2010.

      The Penn State Webinar on deer resistant plants, that followed the one on strategies to discouraging wildlife in the garden, was so popular that a program has been developed on rabbit resistant plants.The webcast can be reviewed here: http://rnrext.cas.psu.edu/PAForestWeb/previousseminars.html. It was presented by Linda Wiles, a County Extension educator from Monroe County. Here is a summary of the webinar.

      Our backyard cottontail is Sylviagus floridanus. It consumes 1/5 of a pound of food per day, which may not seem like much until it invites its extended family to dine in your garden. Rabbits can cause damage in fruit orchards, where both fruit and bark are consumed; vegetable gardens; flower gardens and in landscape plantings.  A rabbit’s foraging area can range from 1.4 acres to 20 acres. Whatever its chosen range, it does tend to stay within that area where it is familiar with food sources, shelter and escape routes.

      A rabbit’s taste is seasonal. During the summer they tend to eat leaves, herbs, clover, legumes, fruits, garden vegetables, broad leafed weeds and grass. In the winter bramble canes, bark buds, tender twigs, and poison ivy vines are consumed. While rabbits can be destructive, they do eat large numbers of plantain and other broad leafed weeds that are lawn pests. They also eat poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, so some of their gnawing is actually helpful.

      The problem with rabbits is not that they eat so much but that there can be so many of them. A rabbit will have from 2-9 young per litter, with younger females having fewer. As the season progresses the number of young per litter increases. A female rabbit will have 4 litters per season and by the end of the summer the females from the earlier litters will be sexually mature and start breeding.

      A rabbit’s life span is 3-4 years but in the wild they live closer to 1 year. There are few old rabbits due to predators, rain and floods, land cultivation, disease, parasites, accidents and hunting. Hunting accounts for less than 30% of the rabbit attrition rate.

      There are a number of counter measures that the gardener can take to keep rabbits out of the garden. Fencing is one option; it should be 2 feet tall and the mesh should be about 1 inch. Tree guards should be two feet tall also but the estimated level of the snow should be taken into account for winter protection.

      Trapping is another option but it isn’t very effective in the summer because there is such an abundant food supply. It might be more effective in the winter but by then the rabbit population has already usually been decimated by nature. Rabbits are one of the few animals that can legally be released on state game lands when they are live trapped.

      Commercial repellants are generally not safe on food crops. Homemade sprays, while safer, are easily washed from the plants by rain and snow. Whether they work or not depends on the taste of individual rabbits.

      According to Linda Wiles, the solution is to plant rabbit resistant plant. This reduces the food sources, which will reduce the rabbit population. Resistance is on a continuum with apples being rabbit candy and tomatoes being the least favorite fruit. Your tomatoes may disappear but it is usually groundhogs, deer or squirrels that are getting them.

      There are plants that are questionable being eaten in some areas but not others. Plant them with caution.

      Hollyhocks

      Purple coneflowers

      Crocus

      English ivy

      Sunflowers

      Bluebells

      Hyacinths

      Cardinal flowers

      Tulips

      Favorite foods are:

      Blue grass lawn

      Berries

      Wheat

      Soy beans

      Red clover

      Alfalfa

      Switch grass

      Crabgrass

      Clover

      Plantain

      Poison Ivy

      Carrots

      Oats

      Sheep sorrel

      Plants that are poisonous to humans or domestic animas are not necessarily toxic to rabbits. They consume many garden plants that are considered poisonous. The following normally poisonous plants are eaten by rabbits.

      Monkshood

      Lily of the valley

      Daphne

      Bleeding heart

      Foxglove

      Euphorbia

      Iris

      Nicotiana

      Poppy

      Rhubarb

      Poison ivy, oak & sumac

      Wisteria

      Rabbit resistant herbaceous plants that are suitable for dry sunny areas are:

      Artemesia

      Butterfly weed

      Euphorbia

      Rabbit resistant herbaceous sun plants that are good for average to dry soil are:

      Yarrow

      Liatris

      Santolina

      Lamb’s ear

      Zinnia

      Yucca

      The following herbaceous rabbit resistant plants like full sun and average soil:

      Allium

      Siberian iris

      Miscanthus grass

      Catmint

      Salivia

      Oregano

      These rabbit resistant plants will take more moisture but still need full sun:

      Hyssop

      Coreopsis

      French Marigolds

      Plants for average soil with sun to part shade:

      Snapdragons

      Peonies

      Bellflowers

      Lemon balm

      Veronica

      These rabbit resistant plants will grow in sun to part shade in moist areas:

      Lady’s Mantle

      Bergenia

      Bachelor button

      Chrysanthemum

      Lady bells

      Daylily

      Cleome

      Grape hyacinth

      Coral bells

      Flowering tobacco

      Spearmints

      Herbaceous resistant plants for part shade, moist areas:

      Foxglove

      Brunnera

      Forget-me-nots

      Queen of the Prairie

      Bleeding heart

      Herbaceous resistant plants that will grow in moist full shade:

      Wild ginger

      Sweet woodruff

      Lungwort

      Foam flower

      Widely adaptable plants that are rabbit resistant:

      Ajuga

      Jacob’s ladder

      Liriope

      Goldenrod hybrids

      Resistant woody plants, evergreen trees :

      American Holly

      Blue spruce

      Pinus flexilis

      Pinus rigida

      Resistant woody plant, evergreen shrubs:

      Euonymus

      Boxwood

      Japanese holly

      Taxus media (yew)

      Resistant woody plants, deciduous trees:

      Japanese maple

      Alder

      River birch

      Tulip tree

      Eastern redbud

      Chestnut oak

      Resistant woody plants, deciduous shrubs:

      Buddleia

      Hydrangea

      Clematis

      Mock orange

      Weigela

      Spirea

      If you have a limited fenced in area these rabbit resistant vegetable can be planted outside the fence:

      Artichokes

      Asparagus

      Tomatoes

      Potatoes

      Leeks

      Onions

      Squash

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