Tag Archive for: Javelina resistant plants

Javelina stepping out of an arroyo

Javelina stepping out of an arroyo

Yesterday, I had a rather unexpected encounter with a javelina while taking pictures of a landscape. I think he was as surprised as I was to see him and he retreated back to his arroyo after a couple of minutes. That meeting inspired me to write this post and how they affect the desert garden – primarily what types of plants they like to eat.  

Javelina travel through arroyos (washes)

Javelina travel through arroyos (washes)

To state that I was surprised to come so close to a javelina is an understatement. In the over twenty years that I’ve worked in desert gardens, I seldom see these pig-like mammals as they usually sleep through the day underneath mesquite or other desert trees.

Javelina resemblance to a boar

Often referred to as ‘wild pigs’ due to their resemblance to a boar, they aren’t pigs, but are a peccary, which is a medium-sized mammal with hooves. Javelina are found throughout the Southwest, but their range also extends to Central and South America. In urban settings, you’ll find them in more naturalized areas.

Javelina in the Desert Garden

They frequently travel in herds, although I only saw these two adults on this day. While it can be enjoyable to view them from afar (don’t get too close as they can be dangerous), dealing with the damage that they cause to gardens isn’t fun.

Javelina love to eat the pretty things we plant in our desert landscapes such as flowering annuals, and they don’t stop there. The spines on your prized cactus won’t deter a hungry javelina – they go right in and munch on the base of a prized columnar cactus as well as the pads of prickly pear cactus.

When surveying the damage that they cause to the garden, what makes it worse, is that javelina frequently don’t eat what they dig up.

Javelina in the Desert Garden

My relationship with javelina is a long one, which began by working to keep them away from the thirty-six tee boxes that I had to plant with flowering annuals seasonally. Not surprisingly, they were drawn to these colorful islands and would dislodge the plants by rooting them up with their snouts before eating them.

My crew and I had some mixed success with spraying squirrel repellent every few days on the petunias, but it was a lot of work and not foolproof.

Javelina in the Desert Garden

Javelina will zero in on popular potted annuals such as pansies, petunias, snapdragons, which are like candy to them. While geraniums aren’t their favorite potted flower, they will eat them too if hungry enough.

If you want pretty containers filled with flowers and live in a neighborhood where javelina are present, you’ll need to place the pots in an enclosed area or courtyard where they can’t reach. 

Bacopa

Bacopa

Lavender

Lavender

There are some flowering plants that they usually stay away from and these include Bacopa and Lavender, which can be used in containers.

 citrus fruit

Depending on the time of year, a javelina’s diet changes, based on what is available. In winter, citrus they will grab citrus fruit off of the tree.

mesquite

In summer, mesquite seedpods are one of their favorite foods.

A Cereus peruvianus cactus that has some bites taken out of its base by javelina

A Cereus peruvianus cactus that has some bites taken out of its base by javelina.

A fairly common sight is a columnar cactus with some bites taken out of its base, where javelina are present. In most cases, the damage is largely cosmetic and the cactus will be fine. However, to prevent further damage, you can surround the base of the cactus with a wire mesh cage.

javelina

While there is no guarantee that javelina won’t eat the plants in your desert garden from time to time, there are some plants that are less palatable to them than others. Here a helpful link for javelina resistant plants, but I must tell you that if a javelina is hungry enough, it will eat the plants on this list – I know this from personal experience. 

The only foolproof way to keep them away from eating your plants is to keep them out with a fence or wall.

Do you have javelina where you live? What type of plants do you notice them eating? Any plants that they seem to leave alone?

Working on golf courses provided me with many opportunities to interact with our native wildlife.  Now, most of my interactions were welcome – roadrunners, jackrabbits,  even baby raccoons.  Some encounters were unexpected – snakes, tarantulas and coyotes.  But there was one animal with which I waged a constant battle…the Javelina, also know as the Wild Pig.

native wildlife

Javelina (Collard Peccary) Photo by Wing-Chi Poon

Now Javelina are not actually pigs, but are pig-like mammals that are native to the Southwestern region of the United States, ranging southwards into Central and South America.

Okay, first of all, you can smell them before you can see them.  There is no polite way to state this – they stink.  They travel in small herds and love to eat just about anything.  They can eat cactus out in the desert, but will ignore that in exchange for what is growing in your garden.

My personal battle with javelina was due to the fact that two of the golf courses I worked at had 36 tee boxes and each were planted with flowers.  In the summer, I would plant Lantana, which was beautiful and the Javelina did not touch.  But, in the winter, they loved to eat whatever type of annual flower I planted, leaving torn up plants and dirt as proof that they had been there.

native wildlife

Purple Petunias planted at the tee box.

Believe it or not, Petunias, Pansies and Geraniums are listed on the Javelina Resistant Plants list.  But, evidently, the Javelina did not read this list because they happily ate all of mine.

Now, I knew I had to do something besides replacing annuals up to three times a week.  The members of the golf courses wanted flowers and I was tired of making endless trips to the nursery in order to pick up replacement plants and it was eating into my budget.  So, I did some research. 

native wildlife

Pink Petunias with Eremophila ‘Valentine’ in the background.

Some people swore that putting shavings of “Irish Spring” soap would keep them away.  Others said that human hair would do the trick.  I honestly did not try any of these because I had seen them fail before.  But, there are some products that have had some limited success.  The first are coyote urine products that seems to help keep them away, (I didn’t want to try this one for obvious reasons).  The second is Liquid Fence, which must applied frequently and the third is Dr. T’s Squirrel Repellent.

I used Dr. T’s Squirrel Repellent with some success.  It did not eliminate the problem, but it did help decrease the amount of flowers being eaten by the Javelina.

*I did discover that the favorite thing the they would eat, was citrus fruit.  So in the winter, when citrus fruit was plentiful on the trees, the Javelina would mostly ignore my flowers.  In the summer, they would eat the seedpods from the Mesquite trees.

Geranium Flower

Geranium Flower

There are plants that Javelina are less likely to eat, but if they are hungry enough, they will eat anything.  For years, they never ate the Geraniums I had planted on the golf course.  But, one year, they came in and ate them all.  So, no plant is completely resistant to them.  The following link will send you to a list of plants that are somewhat resistant to Javelina  – be sure to cross out Petunia, Pansy and Geraniums off of the list ;-).

*Annuals that are usually resistant to Javelina include Euryops Daisy, Bacoba, Snapdragons as well as Fern Leaf Lavender.

So the outcome was that I did win some battles, but the Javelina ultimately won the war….

Thankfully, the planters were removed during a golf course renovation and now perennials are now planted in their place, which are ignored by the Javelina.  Unfortunately, this occurred after I had left….