Paw Paw Damage

okdebApril 22, 2013

A few years ago, I planted several young paw paw trees along a semi-shaded fence border. I've been impatiently tending them in hopes of eventually getting flowers and fruit. I had 5 mixed varieties from different sources.
The past couple of years, something is cutting off my trees each winter. They are essentially being cut off a couple of feet up from the ground. Some of the little trunks are too thick and the damage is too high to be the work of rabbits.
My husband swears he hasn't cut them off. I've lost one of the trees due to this repetitive chopping off. Most eventually show growth, but I'm at a loss to figure out what's doing this to my trees.
Does anyone have any idea what's going on?

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Bradybb WA-Zone8

What does the cut look like?Smooth or ragged,like with bite marks?According to a number of sources,deer do not eat Pawpaw wood.Is there anything left on the ground, of the top that was severed?Possibly someone is getting scion material.I hope not. Brady

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 8:28PM
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Thank you Brady. The cuts look clean, not ragged, which is why I first thought my husband has been cutting them off, but he swears he hasn't. We have a large lot (1/2 acre), but live in the city, so it's not deer. The little trees are in our fenced backyard along a fairly shaded southern fenceline area. Our neighborhood has WAY too many squirrels and rabbits, but I haven't noticed any critters I'd suspect of doing this. The trunks on the damaged trees are between 1/2 and one inch in diameter. If I'm ever able to grow the trees to maturity, it will probably only take the squirrels a couple of years to discover the fruit. They pick everything from the 3 plum trees, 3 pear trees, 2 peach trees, 2 apple trees and mature pecan tree currently in our yard. I would suspect the neighbor, but they don't spend much time in their yard or appear interested in gardening.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 6:38AM
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I share your pain! I planted a mango and a PA golden fall of 2010. Pa bloomed last year and mango did not but last fall, mango got flower buds. Here's the sad part: during fall clean up, the "gardeners" weed wacked the mango to 1 inch above the graft union. I wrapped the tip with para film to prevent it from drying out. Please tell me it's possible for 3rd leaf pawpaw to re-grow from buds within 1 inch of the graft union? So far it's done nothing :)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 5:00PM
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I've the same problem with my pawpaw here in NE. I finally figured out which damage is caused by which pest. From what I've learned, it a small branch or twig is cut off at a clean 45 degree angle it is squirrel. If it's blunt and somewhat ragged it's deer. If just the bark is stripped near the base, it's rabbits. If the tree falls over, as my cherry tree just did last week, it's voles.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 9:36AM
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Sounds like others are having similar problems. No deer in our city yard, but we're overrun with squirrels because the neighborhood is full of mature oak and pecan trees. The rotten squirrels are damaging several trees by stripping bark for nests. The one I'm most concerned with at the moment is a narrow variety of cypress in our front yard.
So it's possible that the squirrels might be topping off my young pawpaw tress too? Bad enough that they steal all of the fruit from the many fruit trees and pretty much all of the pecans. Not allowed to shoot them in the city and there aren't enough natural predators here to keep the population in check.
Thanks everyone for sharing.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 10:08AM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

As you know even in the winter, the twigs have strong odor that deters damage from rodents and browsing animals like deer and goats. I am wondering if you have a human harvesting your trees for homemade anti-cancer preparations?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 1:56PM
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That's an interesting possibility chervil2. When I researched the trees before deciding to plant some, I read about their use and potential as a cancer treatment. My trees are all still fairly small and 3 of them were topped again this past winter. Of the 3, 2 are now showing signs of life since the weather has warmed up. The one with the thickest trunk has been cut several times and may be a lost cause. The rabbits do gnaw on most young plants I add to the yard and our squirrels are horribly destructive little demons, but the cuts look clean and the hubby swears he didn't cut them. In all fairness, if he were to cut them, he'd be more likely to take them off at ground level than just topping them. I live right in the city and have more wildlife problems than most people who live in the country.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 3:36PM
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Hi all. My 2 cents. A clean cut, a couple feet off the ground, like at snow height? If so, my vote is rabbit. I had them do the same here. It is true that the critters in general leave paw paw alone as it is somewhat toxic to them. But all of my trees get tipped by the dear each spring, and there are plenty of other things for them to eat. I have lost many seedling/sapling trees to rabbits during the winter including paw paw. its a pain, but i now make a 3 or 4 foot high cage for everything out of 11/2 in wire mesh. I use hardware cloth if I am worried about mice and the like. I have to do this even for fairly large trees as well since the deer rub antlers on them. So I guess next winter try to cage them and see if it helps.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 8:44PM
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