are japanese maples deer resistant

Do Deer Eat Japanese Maples?

05 June 2024Shopify API

Do deer eat Japanese maples? Protect your Japanese maple trees from deer damage by understanding their eating habits and implementing effective deterrents.

Japanese maples are prized for their beauty and elegance, but they can also be a target for hungry deer. While these trees are generally considered deer-resistant, there are situations where deer may be tempted to browse on them.

Learn more about deer's eating habits and how to protect your Japanese maples from damage.

Do Deer Eat Japanese Maples?

Japanese deer typically avoid eating Japanese maples due to their low palatability.

However, during harsh winters or when preferred food sources are scarce, they may resort to browsing on these trees.

Among the hundreds of species, deer appear to love the forage of Sugar and Red maples the most. But, the thin branches and changing burgundy leaves of Japanese maples don't seem to be a deer's favorite.

Do Deer Eat Japanese Maples

Deer aren’t picky eaters. Especially during winter, when foods are rare than in any other season, they eat any plant, including Japanese maple, if they can’t find anything better.

Deer eating

Generally, deer prefer those trees that bear fruits and nuts.

They mostly eat the moss, leaves, and branches during spring and summer, but they eat the bark or the fallen seeds in the fall and winter seasons.

Deer eating during winter season

Yet, experts couldn't identify an exact pattern between favorites as it varies from season to season. They may love a tree in summer but hate it in winter.

Now, the question is, by any chance, can the Japanese maple be deer-resistant.

Let’s know the answer in the next segment.

Do deer eat sugar maple trees in Japan?

Yes, deer do eat sugar maple trees in Japan. Sugar maples are a favorite food source for deer, and they will often browse on the trees' leaves, twigs, and bark. This can cause significant damage to the trees, especially if they are young or stressed.

Deer looking for food
Young Japanese maple
Japanese maple in the yard
Deer rubbing their antlers against tree trunk

There are a few things you can do to protect your sugar maple trees from deer damage:

  • Plant deer-resistant plants around your sugar maples. There are many plants that deer do not like to eat, such as boxwood, holly, and yew. Planting these plants around your sugar maples will create a barrier that deer are less likely to cross.
  • Use deer fencing. Deer fencing is a physical barrier that will keep deer out of your yard. There are many different types of deer fencing available, so be sure to choose one that is right for your needs.
  • Spray your sugar maples with a deer repellent. There are many different deer repellents available, both commercial and homemade. Deer repellents work by making the trees taste bad to deer, so they are less likely to browse on them.
  • Remove food sources that attract deer. Deer are attracted to a variety of food sources, such as acorns, berries, and fruits. If you remove these food sources from your yard, deer will be less likely to come around.

Types of Maple Trees And Its Resistance Ability to Deer

Dwarf Japanese Maples Are Resistant To Deer

Native to Japan, Acer palmatum (dwarf Japanese maple) isn’t a favorite meal of deer. It’s not common to see deer eating these maples, but it can happen.

The size of the dwarf maple, which is also known as Wilson’s Pink Dwarf, can be appealing to deer as they can easily access these trees. They only grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and that’s why deer won’t even need to jump or struggle to reach their branches or higher young branches.

Dwarf Japanese maple

In short, dwarf Japanese maples can be damaged by deer more than any other maple variety because of their reachable size.

Deer Don't Prefer Autumn Blaze Maple Leaves

Okay, be prepared to read the whole thing cause I am gonna share some important information.

First of all, autumn blaze maple is sold, saying that they are resistant to deer.

And it’s mostly true!

These trees attract bees but not deer. Also, their leaves are toxic if eaten.

Autumn Blaze Maple

Here comes the exception. Suppose a deer is excessively hungry and there is no other food option around, as well as it doesn't know that these trees aren’t for eating; it may end up damaging your young autumn blaze maple tree, not the grown one.

Young autumn blaze maple tree leaves

But it’s pretty rare to happen. And once the deers learn that these trees aren’t edible for them, they will never attack them again.

Crimson Queen Japanese Maple May Not Be Deer-resistant

Crimson Queen is a low-branching dwarf tree that has a delicate and weeping form. Because of their low height, deer can easily access the shoots.

Crimson Queen low branching Japanese maple

So, yes, there is a high possibility that your local deer will eat the maple’s buds during the winter season.

Aconitifolium (Full Moon Maple) May Not Be Deer-resistant

Earlier, I mentioned that the deer attacked my maple trees only once.

So, here it is. A deer ate a couple of branches from my newly planted Aconitifolium. After buying this tree, I grew it in a pot for the first year.

And then I planted it late last winter. Shortly thereafter, a deer came and took some bites from this tree.

Full moon maple tree

However, they haven’t bothered my Japanese maples since then. Hence, I guess that deer was looking for food in the cold winter and ended up damaging my tree without knowing its taste.

Shortly, Acontifolium is deer-resistant but not proof. And when any of the maple trees are young, you have to take care of them.

Therefore, I will guide you on how to keep deer away from your maple trees.

How to Protect Japanese Maple from Deer

There are several ways of protecting your plant from deer. And the very first one is installing a fence.

Install Fence Around The Plant Area To Restrict The Deers

Setting up a fence is one of the most reliable ways to keep deer away from your tree. Usually, deer won’t go through much trouble just to get their food unless needed.

Garden fence

You may not consider it an aesthetic solution, but it’s definitely the most effective one.

You can get a chicken or heavy wire fence around but far away from the tree. This obstacle will make them struggle and search for food somewhere else.

Remember that your fence should be at least 8 feet tall and not have gaps bigger than 6x6 inches.

Tall fence around garden

Moreover, fencing around your Japanese maple tree will also protect your tree from deer rubbing.

Use Protective Netting Around Your Maple Trees To Protect Them From Deers

Another way of plant protection from deer is using plastic or mesh netting around the young maple tree. The wire netting you will use must be strong enough to prevent deer from pushing on it.

Strong wire mesh net

You can also consider using chicken wire cages. However, make sure to keep enough space for your maples to grow so that you don’t have to change them now and then.

Plant Trees or Plants on The Outer Part of the Garden That Deer Dislike

You may plant things that deer don’t like to eat on the outer side of your garden. This method will reduce the chances of the deer entering inside.

Generally, deer don’t like toxic, highly fragrant, or prickly plants. Trees like rosemary, large lavenders, and fragrant herbs effectively discourage deer from entering your garden.

Large lavenders at the outer part of the garden

You may plant a deer-resistant viburnum, such as arrowwood viburnum, which deer don’t like at all.

Aside from growing fragrant plants, it's also a good idea to choose ones that are a little taller to decrease visibility into your garden, which may contain more appealing plants.

I have several Thuja Green Giant, which is a fast-growing deer-resistant tree. As they grow pretty tall and provide almost no visibility inside, you can also choose to plant these on the outer part of your garden.

Thuja green around garden

On the contrary, it’s always best to plant anything they may like to eat near your house since your day-to-day activities will somewhat limit their access to the garden.

Use a Deer Repellent

Odor deterrents can keep deer away from the gardens. There are several options available in the market, but I suggest you buy those that don’t contain too many chemicals.

After all, we don’t want to harm the innocent animal or our tree, right?

Well, you can also try a homemade repellent such as garlic or rotten fish heads, fabric softener, etc.

However, these kinds of solutions need constant usage as the effect will last only a few days. Studies show that the most effective deer repellents work only for about 10 to 12 weeks before the deer become accustomed to the smell and continue their normal feeding habits.

So, I recommend that you purchase at least two different types of deer repellents that can be used alternating throughout the year to lower the chances of the deer becoming acclimatized to the scent.

You may consider buying “Deer Out” and “Plantskydd,” as they are made from various types of ingredients and have a distinct scent.

Use A Mechanical Repellent

Mechanical repellents also come in a range of many forms, such as ultrasonic devices and motion-activated sprinkler systems. Another device that is also effective is called predator eyes, which mimic the appearance of a predator’s eyes at night.

The motion-activated sprinkler is the most efficient one among all of these devices. But, just like the chemical repellents, deer can become habituated to these systems too.

Therefore, you need to regularly move the sprinklers' position and occasionally turn them on and off to ensure that the deer don’t become accustomed to their presence.

Use Sounds That Might Scare Away The Deers

Deer can be easily scared by sounds. You can use an object with high-pitched sounds like whistles, wind chimes, radios, or electric wires.

So far, you have come to know some methods of how to keep deer away from trees. But, what are you gonna do if a deer already ate or damaged your Japanese maple trees?

Don’t worry. I will also provide a guideline on this matter.

Take a look at the following segment.

Signs of Deer Damage On Japanese Maple Trees

Deer can cause a variety of damage to Japanese maple trees, including browsing on the leaves and bark, rubbing their antlers against the trunk, and even eating the twigs and branches. Here are some telltale signs of deer damage to look out for:

  • Browsing damage

Deer may eat the leaves, shoots, and buds of the Japanese maple, leaving behind ragged or torn foliage. They may also leave behind small, hoof-shaped prints in the soil.

  • Rubbing damage

Bucks may rub their antlers against the trunk of the Japanese maple, causing scrapes and wounds on the bark. This can lead to the bark peeling away and exposing the wood underneath.

  • Broken branches

If deer eat the twigs and branches of the Japanese maple, it can weaken the tree and cause branches to break or snap off.

  • Stunted growth

If the Japanese maple is repeatedly damaged by deer, it may not grow as well as it should, and may have stunted growth or a distorted shape.

  • Missing bark

In severe cases, deer may strip the bark from the Japanese maple, causing significant damage and potentially killing the tree.

If you suspect that your Japanese maple has been damaged by deer, it's important to take action to protect the tree from further harm. This may involve using physical barriers or deer repellents to deter deer from approaching the tree.

Are green Japanese maples deer-resistant?

Green Japanese maples are generally considered to be deer-resistant, but as with any plant, this can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the species of deer in your area, the availability of other food sources, and the size and location of your Japanese maple.


Now tell me, are Japanese maples deer resistant?

Hopefully, you got your desired answer with some other necessary information.

In short, the taste of Japanese maples isn’t preferred by deer. Only the exception will occur based on the population of the deer and their extreme hunger during the dry season.

A hungry deer might quickly develop a liking for a tree that previously appeared to be resistant.

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