Deer Plant: Hackberry / Sugarberry (Celtis spp.)
Class: browse; preferred
Description: Hackberry is a small to medium-sized tree with a spreading irregular crown found on moist soil in stream and river drainages, and a common invader along fence lines. Hackberry leaves are dark green above, pale with prominent raised veins below and are rather thick and stiff. The common name and variety name refer to the dense network of veins in the leaf.
The fruit is eaten by many species of birds and some mammals, including white-tailed deer. Deer seek out hackberry when the leaves are within reach, especially during the spring when protein content is highest. These leaves are highly digestible by deer.
The leaves and twigs are browsed by both deer and livestock, so property owners are encouraged to have a good handle of livestock stocking rates in areas where deer management and hunting is important.
Hackberry / Sugarberry Photos:
Deer Food: Grape (Vitus spp.)
Class: browse; preferred by deer
Description: There are many species of grape throughout the white-tailed deer’s range, but all species seem to serve as good sources of deer forage. In areas with high deer populations, grape leaves will not be found within the reach of a deer, but foliage can be found higher in brush and tree canopies. Common grape species include mustang, post oak, and muscadine.
Grape plants are vigorous and clump forming or high-climbing woody vines occurring on moist sandy soil and loose clay soil in both bottomlands and uplands. Most grape species are very aggressive, often outcompeting other vegetation in an area.
Grape plants are usually found along fence rows, adjacent creeks, and within forested areas. Growth can be encouraged on properties managed for white-tailed deer by loosely stacking brush piles so that small, protected grape plants can establish with the physical protection of the pile and then grow outward where deer can consume the leaves.
The fruits are also eaten by many birds and mammals, including deer and wild hogs. These animals will plant the seeds of the highly sought after fruit directly into the areas they frequent, such as brush piles!
Mustang (2 photos above)
Post oak (above)
Deer Food: Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia)
Class: browse; moderately preferred by deer
Description: Cedar elm is a medium to large-sized tree with drooping branches that form a narrow to rounded crown. The plant occurs on moist soils in bottomland, upland, and even limestone sites where found. The stems may have corky wings, but do not confuse cedar elm with winged elm.
Unlike winged elm, cedar elm leaves are thicker, has the smallest leaves of the elms and is one of the few with fruit, called samaras, maturing in the fall. In addition, the top part of cedar elm leaves have a sand paper-type roughness. In the fall, leaves will turn yellow-gold in color.
White-tailed deer are fond of all elms, especially cedar elm. Where moderate to high deer populations exists, this browse plant will typically show heavy use.
Cedar Elm Photos:
Deer Food: Elbowbush (Forestiera angustifolia)
Class: browse; moderately preferred by deer
Description: A perennial, small rounded shrub occurring in open fields, brushy prairies and limestone outcrops. The stems of elbowbush are often looping and appear almost vine-like in many instances.
The fruit may be eaten by some birds and mammals, but white-tailed deer use foliage for browse where this plant is found. Elbowbush’s shrubby growth form provides good cover for deer and other wildlife.
Deer Food: Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
Class: browse; highly preferred by deer
Description: An introduced (from Asia) woody, twining or trailing evergreen vine occurring on moist soil of bottomlands and uplands along streams, fence rows and timber edges. Japanese honeysuckle is often introduced into “wild” areas because it is used as an ornamental around dwellings. It has showy and fragrant flowers in addition to evergreen foliage.
Fruit, flowers, leaves and stems are used by many birds, mammals and insects. Deer love honeysuckled leaves and the fresh-growth of stems. Honeysuckle is a high quality forage with protein contents ranging from 9 to 20 percent and a digestibility of 75 percent. Protein content is dependent upon season and soil fertility with the highest levels reported during the cooler months of the year — when deer need food.
Japanese honeysuckle Photos: