gophers and palms

aquilachrysaetosJune 9, 2010

I normally plant everything except trees in holes lined with chicken wire. I learned to do this after the gophers ate the roots clean off my roses.

I don't do that to trees because the wire would strangle the roots. Now palms have those little finger like roots. Could I line their holes with the wire?

I have a canary island date palm I don't want to feed to the gophers.

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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

That post is confusing, because I have a palm tree and roses, but I never had any problem with gophers eating the roots. I used to have a lawn, and sometimes gophers will eat the roots of a lawn and do damage. I think they leave big trees and big plants like roses alone and mainly eating small annual type plants with tender roots. Are you sure it was gophers? Did you dig up the roses and find the roots eaten? Now, that I don't have a lawn, there are no more gophers around. Did you try either the rose forum or the palm forum to confirm if gophers really eat those roots?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 10:59AM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

Gophers eat rose roots. You don't have to dig them up to find out as they just fall over when the root system is decimated.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 5:16PM
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They so eat roses. The poor bushes just tip over and I see the grooves from where the gophers chewed. Roses are a celebrated delicacy in the gopher community around here.

When I first bought this house 13 years ago I planted that old perennial morning glory -you know the one that will eat your house if you let it?

I planted three clumps I dug up from my garden at the apartment we moved from. They didn't die but they struggled with the constant root pruning they got from the gophers. I dug up the pitiful remains and replanted them in chicken wire lined holes. They took off: I now do not need curtains in my kitchen windows. They give my old tiny ranch a cottage aspect.

Roses were a major failure until I lined their holes as was bougainvillea.

Gophers do kill young trees. A few blocks away they killed a good sized tulip tree.

Sycamores seems to tolerate gophers pretty well. I have a young one near my front gate that they've munched on. It's growth was slowed and a few leaves dropped off but it recovered. Of my two Deodaras I planted last year one is looking very dead after the gophers snacked on it. I'm not pulling it out yet hoping it will needle out again. I won't use the wire on large trees as I mentioned before. I plant and pray. When they get very large then I don't worry so much.

I almost lost a full grown Crape Myrtle to them. I thought it was dead so I dug a big hole next to it and planted a Zephirine Drouhin in it. I was going to leave the dead Crape as a support for it. I made sure I lined the planting hole with the wire. To my surprise the Crape leafed out. Seems even though the roots are not entirely protected, having a big section blocked off seems to discourage the gophers. Now it and the rose are growing happily together.

I could write quite a list of all the plants those nasty critters have eaten. It seems each year they have a different hankering. One year they ate all of the century plant starts. They left the largest one alone.

So to my original question: Should I plant my Canary Island Palm in wire?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 2:30AM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

Gophers chew on and destroy the roots of certain palm trees, especially Queen Palms and Pigmy Dates. Also, animals such as rabbits, mice, and rats like to gnaw on palm tree roots and trunks. Rabbits often eat a palm's tender new growth

If I were to use chicken wire for a barrier I would go out about three feet and dig a ring two feet deep and place the chicken wire in that. I rarely find gopher tunnels much deeper than twelve inches. However gopher depths vary with digging conditions. If you leave them uncontrolled they will establish deeper tunnels.

They also run along the surface until they find the soft dirt of a new planting and then dig right in at the base of the plant and the underground barrier won't help that. Or they will follow pvc irrigation pipe in a ditch of nice soft dirt that will take them to a prize new planting.

Go with the barrier but do yourself and neighbors a favor and kill as many as you can to reduce the damage.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 11:50AM
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They are well known young palm killers...and when older palms send out smaller fronds-good chance gophers ate a good percentage of roots. Use the wire liner-and never have to worry.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 5:02PM
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chaud111(z9A Vista, CA)

Get a black hole gopher trap. My brother used buy everything in the store ( explosive, poison, ...), but nothing worked until I gave him 2 black holes.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 3:48PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

My palm tree was very big when we moved in.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 11:16AM
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gcbunnell(8b/9a N.CA)

This is my experience re gophers and palm trees. My husband and I planted a field of 125, 2-3 gal. sized Canary Island Date palms on an acre in the foothills of the upper Sacramento Valley. That summer we discovered we had gophers when some of the palms disappeared or just had a few fronds sticking out of the ground. We then replanted about 12 -15 of them in wire baskets, and we lost none of those. We continued to lose a palm or two every year for several years, even when one got to be over 5 feet tall, but now that all of them are 8-12 feet tall (7 years later), we no longer lose them. However, all the palms that were planted in wire baskets are stunted in comparison to the ones that managed to escape the gophers' appetites. Gophers will eat palm roots, but, maybe now there are so many roots, the trees can withstand the onslaught. Make sure your baskets are fairly large (ours were wire trash baskets, probably too small), but also make sure the spacing of the wire is small enough to keep out a gopher or vole (field mouse and vegetarian). You will also need to protect the top of the ground where the palms are so voles and gophers just don't decide to start digging into the ground from the top. Hope this helps. Carol

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 1:51PM
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