And Who’s Been Eating MY Fritillaries?

eating.fritillariesI have sympathised with Jessica at Rusty Duck and Pauline at Lead up the garden path when they have recounted their tales of fritillary-eating pheasants, but I knew pheasants were unlikely to visit our garden despite its semi-rural location. Our Fritillary meliagris have been emerging delightfully over the last few weeks, clearly happy and thinking about establishing themselves, and I was thrilled to find F. ulva vulpis also reappearing after going into hiding last year, adding to their number with three Β£1 bargain pots of them a week or so ago. As I planted the newbies, in a different part of the woodland edge border, I did notice that the leaves and stems of the original clump were broken or damaged and assumed neighbourhood cat carelessness – but this was clearly not the case when I inspected the new additions this morning! Neatly severed stumps of leaves and stems were all that remained of the three leafy clumps, apart from a single flower stem….

Not cats or pheasants, or Goldilocks or the three bears, but presumably slimy little molluscs – but if so, why have they singled out these isolated clumps of fritillaries when they have a whole garden of leafy spring growth to choose from (and the fritallaries’ harlequin flowered cousins, which are untouched although admittedly in the woodland and not this border). What is it about fritillaries that makes them so tasty? Are we missing out – or are they indeed edible by humans (must check that out)? In the meantime, grrrrrr!

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41 Responses to And Who’s Been Eating MY Fritillaries?

  1. Jane Brewer says:

    How annoying! It sounds a bit like cutworm. Try digging down near the plants and seeing if you can find a caterpillar like beast.

  2. Pauline says:

    Oh Cathy, so sorry your fritillaries have suffered such awful damage. What is it about fritillaries that makes them so tempting, I wish I knew, but I’m not willing to try eating them to find out! I hope they will flower properly for you next year

    • Cathy says:

      If it is snails I may resort to something a little murderous next year, Pauline! No sign of anything on the meleagris though…

  3. Christina says:

    There are a huge number of snails this year, I’ve found them inside my tulips and on every leave in the garden, even during the day when they are supposed to disappear! Maybe whatever it was that ate them could smell them because when they were planted the leaves were bruised slightly emitting a smell that alerts the molluscs to their tasty dinner.

  4. Liz says:

    Hi Cathy,

    I imagine it was probably the nasty sluggy snail guys, but perhaps mice/rats/squirrels too? It’s strange the entire things have gone as in my experience often molluscs eat just a bit of the plant and rarely leave no trace at all – was the growth large or just barely above ground?

    • Cathy says:

      That’s what surprised me, as they are munched almost to the ground. We do have a squirrel, and rats who come through the garden – would they go for fritillaries?

  5. AnnetteM says:

    Hi Cathy,
    That does look rather drastic for snails – you haven’t got a rabbit in the garden have you?
    I do hope you don’t get further damage.

    • Cathy says:

      Definitely no rabbits – we may be semi-rural, but we are enclosed by properties and gardens

      • AnnetteM says:

        I have to admit to feeling a little smug reading about other people’s problems with slugs and snails this year as that has been me in previous years. However I have got my come-uppance now. I have found exactly the same damage as you, but on one of my delphinium plants! Time for another snail cull!

        • Cathy says:

          Perhaps I was a little smug too – it has never been a real issue here, so I suppose I should be grateful as long as this is as far as it goes! Hope your delphinium survives πŸ™‚

          • AnnetteM says:

            I keep planning to go out when it is dark to see if I can find the culprit or culprits, but it is quite late now when it is dark and I just get too sleepy! Maybe tonight.

  6. rusty duck says:

    Oh nooooo!
    Much as I love them, I’ve not replaced the fritillaries this year. It’s so depressing to see them go and they do seem to be Michelin starred dining to some.
    Could be a rabbit.. Here the mice went for the bulbs, but that was after the pheasant had had the tops so maybe it was a case of crumbs from the table. .

  7. croftgarden says:

    I don’t think is a case for Sherlock and Watson, just a little elementary deduction. If there are slime trails or slime on the stems, it has to be molluscs with or without shells. If there are teeth marks it’s a rodent, but not really a rodent snack. Cut worm and other insect larvae would go for the stem root junction and I’m not aware that they go for bulbs. So get your Miss Marple disguise on and have another look.

    • Cathy says:

      No slime trails, but a hint of slime on the munched stems – alien snails? Can’t really say if they are teeth marks but perhaps if I use a magnifying glass? We do have rats passing through…

  8. croftgarden says:

    PS. Condolences

    • Cathy says:

      Thank you but perhaps not needed as I can take it on the chin – and whoever it is has to eat. I am only one of many who have suffered damage from critters of some sort

  9. johnvic8 says:

    Hi Cathy. Here on the other side of the pond (North Carolina), I have had similar problems with rabbits topping off the muscari greenery. So far, I’ve done very little about it, hoping they will get their fill and move on to my neighbor’s veggie patch. There are several spray products available that are purported to deter rabbits (and deer); one named Liquid Fence has been marginally effective but the little bunnies are quite persistent.

    • Cathy says:

      Hi John, no little bunnies here though so my money is on alien snails at the moment! Hope you get the better of yours eventually! πŸ˜‰

  10. Chloris says:

    It’s certainly not a pheasant they just bite the heads off and leave you with stalks. My guess is snails.

  11. Annette says:

    you poor thing, Cathy – I’ve just read a most amusing story in Anna Pavord’s The curious gardener where she asked herself a similar question although it was a rare Arum and not a Fritillary…guess there’ll always be another year πŸ™‚

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, at least these fritillaries aren’t expensive – so as long as the bulbs are still intact and survive having the leaves nobbled…

  12. Poor you! I have enough trouble with slugs and snails, without your added assailants. We do have a pair of squirrels that frequent the garden, but apart from protecting my large pots with crocuses in, they give more pleasure than heartache. They’re amusing to watch!

    • Cathy says:

      The squirrel just eats the bird food and buries hazelnuts everywhere whereas the rats dig tunnels in the woodland edge border – but haven’t damaged any plants. I noticed the collared doves or wood pigeons had had a go at some of the polyanthus today 😦

  13. Oh no, that’s rotten luck! I sometimes think the pests scent which plants we love most and targeet them deliberatley. On the other hand, there is a wonderful drift of pure white frits in a damp corner on the river walk, where presumably there are all manner of slugs, snails, ducks, dogs, you name it, and they are pristine. Go figure. Personally I would settle for some of my leaves throwing up a flower, but maybe next year.

    • Cathy says:

      There is an SSSI near here which is meant to have a rare colony of white ones, but it sounds as if your river walk ones aren’t ‘protected’ in that way. As you say, strange how they avoid damage by all and sundry there

  14. Debra says:

    =/ I feel your pain. So sorry for your loss.
    When I lived on the coast the slugs would routinely vandalize anything even remotely edible. How could they possibly eat so much so quickly? At least I think slugs were to blame. Perhaps sasquatches were really at fault …

  15. bittster says:

    Well that stinks.
    There’s always next year? Other than that I have nothing helpful to say. I can’t believe the little heathens took away the whole stem!

  16. Rick says:

    I have had the leaves of Fritillaria imperialis eaten in much the same way and put it down to slugs. The only other pest that crossed my mind was lily beetle which nearly always first appear on my F. meleagris. The damage could have been caused by the adult as I found no sign of the horrible larvae.

    • Cathy says:

      There have been some lily beetle in the garden, Rick and not just on lilies – don’t know what their larvae look like though…

  17. CathyT says:

    I really feel for you! I actually killed my one and only fritillaria (I think it was F. pallidiflora) myself this week. It was in a pot (only one remaining amongst many I have killed since we moved here) I was so pleased to see it had a flowering stem, then watered it too hard and all green was snapped away in an instant …

    • Cathy says:

      Oh no! I am particularly prone to breaking new stems of clematis, thinking I will just try and twine them round the posts – oops, not again!!

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