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Growing edible plants, will voles eat them?

Posted by hemnancy z8 PNW (My Page) on
Fri, Sep 4, 09 at 5:14

I'm looking for plants to increase food for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and also some edible plants for me. Some have edible roots, and I'm thinking the voles may also chow down. Has anyone grown these who would know whether voles would eat the roots-

Aralia racemosa
Balsamorhiza sagittata
Dalea purpureum
Geum Urbanum
Liatris spp.
Calochortus spp.

Also if anyone has grown the listed plants, what do you think of their edibility and ease of growing. I don't know if I've seen some of them grown here at all. What conditions do they need to do well? I have some sunny spots, some semi-shade, but mostly pretty dry with not much summer water.

I'm noticing that herbs, mints, and pink family, Caryophyllaceae, seem not bothered much by voles. Anyone know of other plants in addition to daffodils, irises, and Pachysandra that voles are not supposed to like?

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RE: Growing edible plants, will voles eat them?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Sep 4, 09 at 12:36

Calochortus are dry climate plants that may need a bulb frame or other special situation to be grown on this side of the mountains. The native species grown east of the Cascades and south of here, where it is hotter and drier. Other than in the wild off the top of my head I only remember seeing them in bulb frames at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, Vancouver.

RE: Growing edible plants, will voles eat them?

Voles will eat pretty much anything, but particularly things with roots as storage tissues - bulbs, rhizomes, tubers etc. Things they don't eat they still tunnel through.

Is there a reason you want to plant the eastside Balsamroot, rather than the westside one? I'm assuming if you're zone 8 then you live on the westside of the Cascades. B. sagittata is a dryside eastside native. Here on the wetside westside the locally native balsamroot is B. deltoidea. And yes voles will eat it.

Ditto for the calochortus - the wetside westside isn't the right environment. Westside native bulbs are things like camas and brodeia and fritillaria. Nectar feeding insects love them.

I've never considered any of your list to be edible for humans, if that's what you're looking for.

RE: Growing edible plants, will voles eat them?

Thanks for the feedback, bboy and Reg. I'm just curious about growing the Calochortus and Liatris, but am really interested in the Aralia, Spikenard. Mountain Rose herbs sells the powdered root for $26 per pound.

I'm just in the research stage of deciding what to grow next year. I've been using the USDA database to look up plants, and they don't break the maps down below the state level, so I was not aware of the difference between B. deltoides and sagittata, thanks for pointing that out. I guess I need to find better sites for information. My interest in sagittata is because it is rated better on the Plants for a Future website, 4 for edibility and 2 for medicinal than deltoides, which only rates 1 for medicinal, and also because 2 seed companies I have found offer B. sagittata, none deltoides. Also, it may be wet here in the winter, but it is very dry in the summer, dry enough to satisfy plants that do not want any summer water. My objectives at present are to find plants that are successful with little or no irrigation, and hopefully are natives or else useful in one or several ways.

Dalea purpureum is rated 2 for edibility, 1 for medicinal, while the white Prairie clover is rated 3 for edibility, but I don't like white flowers as much, so the edibility factor here is just for curiosity. Neither is native here.

Geum urbanum is rated 3 and 3. It is supposed to have a spicy or cinnamony tasting root. It is not a native or able to live in dry soil, both strikes against it.

Anyway, I'm currently just considering various plants, trying to picture if they could fit in with my dry soil and voles. What is your favorite website that will tell you the locations of wildflowers in Washington? I just found and
which do come up with maps.

I guess from the standpoint of providing food for local wildlife I should perhaps stick with native plants. That is a consideration but usefulness for me is also a factor, not every plant has to be a native for me to grow it, or I'd have to get rid of a lot of stuff already growing in my yard. And most of the wildflower nurseries I've been finding so far offer mostly eastern or southern natives, which is not surprising after looking at a lot of plants on the USDA site and finding most are not native in the PNW.

Here is a link that might be useful: Aralia

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