Columbines losing leaves

Asked June 21, 2017, 12:15 PM EDT

We have four columbine plants,and three of them have mysteriously lost nearly all their leaves in the past few weeks. We planted two of them last spring and two this spring. After we noticed leaf losses on one of them, we put up chicken wire around all of them (we have two plants each in two enclosures) to keep rabbits out. But the leaf losses continued. The leaves are not lying on the ground around the plants; they just seem to have disappeared. We can't see any clear evidence of caterpillar or other insect activity that would explain the problem. On the one plant that still has its leaves, we can't see anything unusual. We're wondering if you can shed any light on the possible cause and what to do about this.

Hennepin County Minnesota diagnosis of plant problems columbine leaf drop horticulture

2 Responses

Columbine leaves are a favorite food of several animals including deer, sawflies and leaf miners.

If most of the stems remain but the leaves are missing, suspect sawflies:

If the stems and leaves are missing with some stem stubs remaining, suspect deer, or possibly rabbits.

Sawfly larvae often defoliate plants within a few days, after which they can no longer be found on the plants and usually do not appear again until the following year.

Learn more here:

Thanks very much for the information about columbine sawflies. It's pretty clear that they are the culprits in our case. We appreciate your help.