Gunnera Problems

Gunnera Problems: Doug responds to a question:

I'm looking for help on pests associated with the Gunnera. I've had a Gunnera growing near my pond for the past two years. The first year it did great and was growing nicely. I covered it for the winter (I live in western washington near the Puget sound across from the Seattle area).

This spring, it came up nicely and it was even growing a flowering stock; which is the first time I've seen. So, here I have a great looking plant growing, then suddenly I'm discovering that something is destroying the plant, almost systematically.

I found a leaf bent over, and when I looked at it, it seemed like something had chewed on the stalk just enough to get the leaf to fall over. Later I found the flowering stock done the same way. It was almost as if something was nibbling on the stock for some type of refreshment or something; very puzzling.

Now, what's worse is that I'm finding the stocks left as they are and the leaves are completely bitten off. I'm hard pressed to understand what would be doing it.

Recently, I have had the following in my yard and so I have some suspicions, but I do not know which may be the culprit: black bear, raccoons, red squirrels and just a few weeks ago, about the time that my Gunnera took a turn for the worse, 2 gray squirrels showed up. The gray squirrels aren't native to this area and they've seemed quite destructive thus far. But I can't believe they'd be so attracted to the gunnera. I thought it might be deer, but am not sure. Whatever it is, I would love to find a way to stop it before I loose the plant entirely; there's only two leaves left and a few of the sprouting small leaves as most of them have been eaten too! Do you have any suggestions? Todd

Doug says

I'm betting rodent of some kind. A squirrel could do this as could a chipmunk or even a rabbit. There's no accounting for some rodent's taste buds. And yes, a gray squirrel is quite a destructive little beast when it comes to flowers. The reds tend to destruct everything else. (I note I don't have either here on my island) :-)

They are not overly bright and can be trapped (use a hav-a-heart or live trap) fairly easily with a bit of peanut butter and bread. You'll likely catch all the neighbor's cats once as well but you'll get the squirrels eventually. What you do with them is up to you.

Try Red/Black Pepper

I'd also recommend a quick dousing with red/black pepper mixed with a spreader such as soap to keep it on the plant and/or anything containing bitrex (one of the Squirrel/Deer repellants) to try and stop them from continuing. A friend waters their plants and then douses them with dried black ground pepper. The pepper sticks well enough but it reminds me of going to a restaurant when they want to grind the pepper onto my meal for me

Or you can actually feed the squirrels (recommended by those in heavily populated squirrel areas) as you can't eliminate them from the garden (they're territorial) and others will simply replace them. If you feed them, you save the plants and they'll defend their turf from other squirrels trying to move in.

It's a problem for sure. Good luck.

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