Do Deer Eat Pawpaws – Tips For Keeping Deer Out Of Pawpaw Trees

Pawpaw Trees
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(Image credit: Gardening Know How, via Liz Baessler)

When planning out a garden, gardeners window shop through catalogues and put every plant on their wish list through a litmus test. This litmus test is a series of questions such as what growing zone, how to plant, sun or shade, how to care for… and, inevitably, is it deer resistant? I’m sure many of you can identify with the last one. I know I sure can. I live in a region where deer are prolific. They will converge on your garden in the middle of the night and dine on it like it was their personal buffet. Then, come morning, you’re watering your garden (well, what’s left of it) with your tears. I have been considering planting and growing pawpaw trees, but I have a bit of trepidation about the whole deer issue. Are pawpaws deer resistant? Is there a way of keeping deer out of pawpaw trees? Let’s find out more together.

About Pawpaw Trees and Deer

Are pawpaws deer resistant? Yes – as it turns out, they are classified as a “very resistant” deciduous shrub. A classification such as this, however, should not be interpreted as “completely resistant.” Generally speaking, though, when it comes to pawpaw trees and deer, you shouldn’t have to worry too much. Which brings me to this – what exactly is keeping deer out of pawpaw trees? Deer apparently find pawpaws unpalatable because the bark and foliage contain acetogenins, a natural insect repellent, which gives the bark and foliage an unpleasant taste.

Do Deer Eat PawPaws?

What about the fruit – do deer eat pawpaws? The jury seems to be out on whether deer really like pawpaw fruit or not. Some authoritative sources say not; however, my research revealed the personal experiences of others which say they do, particularly the fallen fruit – so I would be remiss if I did not mention this, and it is something you will want to keep in mind when it is close to harvest time. Keep in mind, though, that once the fruit is ripe, the deer will be the least of your worries, as there are a number of other animals (and people) that feast on the super yummy pawpaw fruit too. So, vigilance is definitely in order! Additionally, pawpaws are not impervious to rubbing damage from deer, so you may want to take this into consideration, especially if you have a heavy deer presence in your area. There are measures you can take to protect trees from rubbing damage, such as fencing-- 8 foot (2 m.) woven wire fences are effective, and tree wraps. Also, when planting pawpaw seedlings, you may want to protect them with a wire box fence, so they aren’t trampled or nibbled on by unsuspecting deer.

Shelley Pierce

Shelley Pierce was a writer for Gardening Know How, contributing to hundreds of articles for the site.