My magnolia tree is not covered with the beautiful open white blossoms that I love. There are fewer buds, mainly at the top of the tree, and few have opened this year. I was beginning to think it might be diseased since it is so much less productive than last year. Standing outside this morning with a cup of coffee in hand while watching the squirrels race around the back garden, I realized the problem. The magnolia is breakfast for the neighborhood squirrels. I watched as a squirrel scampered to the top, nibbled at the base of a bud, caught it as it toppled off the branch, then carried it away to eat.
I haven’t lived in Florida for long, so didn’t realize squirrels ate magnolia buds, although I have seen squirrels eating magnolia fruit that had fallen from the tree. (Magnolias – A Feast for Squirrels). I wonder why they didn’t eat the buds on this tree last year or the year before, or didn’t eat enough for me to realize a few buds were missing. With the mild winter I wouldn’t think they would be short on food but maybe there are more squirrels this year because of the mild winter.
We put in three small citrus trees in June 2010. Although there were a few flowers and fruit on the trees when we planted them, we didn’t get any flowers or fruit in 2011. I knew they would take time to get established but I thought I might get some fruit this year. The Tampa Bay Times garden section last Sunday said differently however. It said that young citrus trees should not bear fruit for at least 4 years so even if flowers appear they should be picked so the fruit do not develop. This is to allow the roots to be well established before the tree begins to fruit. Guess I will continue to buy my citrus fruit in the supermarket for another year or so. I think our squirrels will be unhappy also since they loved the few oranges that grew the first summer.
Gorgeous white magnolia blooms filled the magnolia tree early last summer.
By September the tree was full of the red cone-like fruit. The fun was watching the squirrels feasting on the fruit. At first I thought they were eating the seeds, but they left the seeds scattered on the ground and ate the fruit. The backyard was a busy place. They placed the fruit in pots in the garden, stored them under the oak tree, hung from the branches of the oak while munching, and carried off several to hide for later. We enjoyed watching them jumping from tree to tree and over the back fence.
Class Note: On the Grade 5 Science wiki, I have information about how to germinate magnolia seeds. Turns out the squirrels are following the correct procedure to get the job done. View the information and video.
We wondered where the oranges were going, but this week we caught the thief in the act. He scrambled up the young orange tree, a pineapple orange we planted in April, grabbed a still-green fruit and ran. He quickly climbed onto a branch of the oak tree and sprawled out to enjoy the feast. I know they have to eat also, but I wasn’t planning on sharing the oranges with the squirrels. The large backyard squirrel population could pose a problem in managing the fruit trees.