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Do Deer Eat Holly Bush Berries?

By Erin Maurer
The red berries of the holly plant are not common food for deer.
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In areas of the United States with large deer populations, it is not uncommon to find the deer grazing in a yard, making a quick meal of many landscape plants. Some plants, like the American holly, are rarely bothered by the deer.

American Holly

The American holly bush is one of the less likely landscape plants to become a dinner for a hungry deer. The deer often avoid this plant and damage rarely occurs, according to the Rutgers University database of deer-resistant plants.


In humans, the berries of the holly plant are toxic. When ingested, the red berries cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Deer may also experience similar problems when eating from the holly bush.


The plant's structure is also a reason the deer tend to avoid this plant. Berry clusters are surrounded by thick, glossy evergreen leaves which sport sharp spines on the end. Spines, like thorns, act as a natural deer deterrent.

Deer-Resistant Landscaping

Planting shrubs like the American holly and perennial flowers with a high deer-resistant rating is an ideal way to create a lush landscape with little concern for deer. Contact a local nursery for more information about planting American holly and other deer-resistant varieties for your region.