What is killing my large plants by eating/cutting them off at the base?

Asked February 23, 2015, 10:31 AM EST

Something is killing my large plants by eating/cutting them off at the base. Just found an 8 year old camellia lying down. This is the third plant in this same area of my yard. Looks like the base of the plant is cut with a straight line. I do not see tracks in the snow by this plant. Not sure if an underground pest is doing this. Could I be causing the pest in my yard by feeding the birds?

Wicomico County Maryland

1 Response

This sounds like it could be wildlife damage, but all the pieces of your puzzle don't quite fit.

It would not be terribly unusual for voles (not moles, they don't eat plants) or other rodents to nibble on woody landscape plants in the winter, and they can do this under the snow, or even from the protection of heavy mulch and soil. They would not leave a perfectly straight line cut, though.... see the link on voles below.

Was the plant healthy and well-watered during the growing season? We surely have had some tremendous winds and heavy precipitation which could snap some plants with brittle wood. Here are two articles, both from the University of Maryland Extension. One is a page on voles, and another on nuisance wildlife in general.
Dealing with Nuisance Wildlife