What’s Eating my Native Plants?!

AAAARGH! What’s eating my native plants?!
We know it can be frustrating! It frustrates us as well! Unfortunately there’s no silver bullet but there are some key things you can do to help mitigate the impact of pests browsing on your plants.

When it comes to your native planting project, there are many animals that threaten your plants’ survival. Among the most notorious pests are rabbits, hares, deer, goats, possums, and the native pukeko, which have a significant impact on newly planted native vegetation. In this blog, we’ll explore how to identify the signs of these pesky invaders and discuss some methods to mitigate their impact on your native planting project.

Animal Pests

Goats, pigs, deer, rabbits, hares, and possums were introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century and have since become invasive species that threaten the country’s native vegetation. These pests feed on a wide variety of plants, often targeting young seedlings and tender shoots, which can severely impact the survival rate of your newly planted trees.

Pukekos, on the other hand, are native to New Zealand but can also pose a threat to native plants. They are omnivorous birds that consume a wide range of vegetation, seeds, insects, and invertebrates, sometimes targeting native plant species by pulling them out of the ground.

Identifying Damage from Different Pests

Feral deer, goats, pigs, possums, hares, and rabbits can all cause damage to native trees of various ages. Possums are more likely to cause significant damage to older saplings and seedlings planted into scrub and on forest margins, while deer and goats will, if present, chew the tops of newly planted seedlings. Hares and rabbits will often cause the greatest damage to freshly planted seedlings, especially when the planted area is adjacent to farmland. Feral pigs are most likely to cause damage on forest margins, usually as a result of their habit of rooting up the ground.

Identifying Marks

Pests often leave behind characteristic signs of their feeding habits. Deer and goats will eat the tops of the plant, while pukekos and pigs may pluck trees from the ground.

Rabbits and hares have sharp teeth, which leave a clean, angled cut on plants. Rabbits will browse on the lower branches and foliage of plants. Pukekos may cause ragged or torn edges when feeding on leaves.

Preventing and Managing Infestations

For each of these pests, managing their populations through trapping and shooting is the most effective strategy. Fencing your newly planted areas can exclude larger pests like deer, goats, and pigs.

An effective strategy for managing damage from hares and rabbits is to plant trees among long grass. Long grass is effective at hiding newly planted trees.



By learning to recognize the signs of these invaders and taking appropriate measures to manage their populations, you’ll go a long way in protecting your new plants and New Zealand’s natural flora. Whether through fencing, trapping, or planning your planting project accordingly, you’ll help protect your plants from damage.

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