Running deer

Do Deer Eat Dogwood Trees?

In the enchanting world of trees, few hold the allure and charisma of dogwood trees (Cornus spp.). Revered for their delicate blossoms, distinctive bark, and vibrant foliage, dogwoods have graced landscapes and woodlands for generations. However, amid their ornate beauty lies a question that often surfaces in the minds of homeowners and arborists alike: Do deer find dogwood trees irresistible, or do they leave these beloved ornamental trees untouched? Our journey begins here, as we embark on an exploration of the intricate relationship between deer and the beloved dogwood trees.

Cornus ser. ‘Baileyi’ (Red Twig Dogwood) Shrub, white flowers, #3 – Size Container
  • Plant is delivered direct from our nursery in a 3-gallon trade pot. It is fully rooted in the soil and can be planted immediately upon arrival, weather permitting. We advise not to plant during frigid winter months or under drought conditions. Planting and how-to-care instructions will arrive with shipment
  • For best results, plant in USDA Zones 2-8. Mature height is 6-8ft, mature spread is 9-10ft
  • Popular landscape plant with Green foliage that turns red-purple in fall. Its Red stems provide a nice winter interest
  • Grows well in full or partial sun
  • Plant will be dormant (no leaves) late Fall through the Winter months, this is normal. It will leaf out in Spring

Dogwood Tree Overview

Before we delve into the curious connection between deer and dogwoods, let’s acquaint ourselves with the enchantment of these trees:

  • Nature’s Artistry: Dogwood trees are celebrated for their artistic contributions to the landscape. Their showy blossoms, ranging from pure white to shades of pink and red, have earned them a reputation as one of the most picturesque flowering trees.
  • Distinctive Features: Beyond their blossoms, dogwoods stand out for their distinctive bark, which often resembles puzzle pieces, and their richly hued foliage that transforms with the seasons. They are revered not only for their ornamental value but also for their cultural significance.
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The Deer Dilemma: Understanding Deer Feeding Habits

As we contemplate the connection between deer and dogwood trees, it’s crucial to unravel the dietary preferences of these graceful herbivores:

  • Herbivorous Grazers: Deer are herbivores, meaning their diet primarily consists of plant matter. They have a penchant for fresh, tender vegetation, often opting for plants with succulent leaves.
  • Feeding Patterns: Understanding deer’s feeding habits is key to comprehending their potential impact on landscape vegetation. These diligent grazers can significantly affect trees and plants, leading to potential concerns for homeowners.
  • Diverse Dietary Range: While deer are known for their voracious appetite, their dietary preferences can vary. The choice of plants they consume may depend on a myriad of factors, including the availability of alternative food sources and regional vegetation.

With this foundational knowledge in place, we set the stage for an exploration of whether dogwood trees feature prominently on the deer’s menu and the factors that influence these graceful herbivores’ dining decisions in the presence of these iconic arboreal treasures.

The Deer and Dogwood Conundrum: To Graze or Not to Graze?

Our journey now brings us to the central question: What is the relationship between deer and dogwood trees when it comes to feeding habits?

  • Varied Experiences: Homeowners, landscapers, and arborists often report diverse experiences regarding whether deer commonly graze on dogwood trees. While some may recount instances of deer nibbling on leaves and buds, others may find their dogwood trees remain unscathed.
  • Deterrent Features: Dogwood trees possess certain characteristics that may influence whether deer choose to graze on them. These include the texture and flavor of dogwood leaves and their overall appeal to the palates of deer.
  • Regional Insights: The likelihood of deer feeding on dogwood trees can vary by region and local deer populations. Local vegetation, the availability of alternative food sources, and the concentration of deer may all play roles.
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Factors That Influence Deer Behavior

To understand the nuances of deer behavior in the context of dogwood trees, we must consider the factors that drive their dining decisions:

  • Dietary Choices: The presence of other food sources in the local environment plays a significant role. When deer have access to abundant natural forage, they may be less inclined to explore ornamental trees like dogwoods.
  • Seasonal Shifts: The behavior of deer can change with the seasons. During times of plentiful natural food, such as spring and summer, dogwood trees may receive less attention. However, in the leaner months of winter, deer may be more prone to browse on a wider range of plants.
  • Local Deer Populations: The density of deer populations in a particular area can also influence their feeding habits. Higher concentrations of deer may result in more frequent interactions between deer and landscape plants.

Strategies for Protecting Dogwood Trees from Deer

For homeowners and arborists seeking to safeguard their cherished dogwood trees from potential deer browsing, several strategies can prove effective:

  • Physical Barriers: Installing deer-resistant fencing or tree guards around individual trees or garden beds can provide a formidable obstacle for deer.
  • Repellents: Utilizing deer repellents that emit scents or tastes disliked by deer can deter them from approaching dogwood trees.
  • Companion Planting: Experimenting with companion plants that deer favor less can make landscapes less attractive to these herbivores.
Tenax 1A120243 Deer Fence Select, 6 ft x 100 ft, Black
  • Made in USA
  • UV Treated
  • 600-650 lb breaking load
  • Mesh: 1.77 in x 1.97 in
  • Exclusive rounded tensile design


As we conclude our exploration of the relationship between deer and dogwood trees, we find a complex interplay where the outcome may vary. While dogwood trees exhibit qualities that could potentially deter deer, the behavior of these graceful herbivores is influenced by a multitude of factors.

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Homeowners and tree enthusiasts alike should remain vigilant and be prepared to employ protective measures to preserve the beauty and vitality of their iconic dogwood trees. Whether deer decide to graze or pass over these majestic arboreal treasures, the landscape continues to be a dynamic stage where the harmony between nature and cultivation unfolds, reminding us of the enduring allure of these magnificent trees.

About the author

Victoria Nelson

Victoria Nelson is a passionate gardener with over a decade of experience in horticulture and sustainable gardening practices. With a degree in Horticulture, she has a deep understanding of plants, garden design, and eco-friendly gardening techniques. Victoria aims to inspire and educate gardeners of all skill levels through her engaging articles, offering practical advice drawn from her own experiences. She believes in creating beautiful, biodiverse gardens that support local wildlife. When not writing or gardening, Victoria enjoys exploring new gardens and connecting with the gardening community. Her enthusiasm for gardening is infectious, making her a cherished source of knowledge and inspiration.

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