What ate our basil plant?

My mother-in-law recently gave us a big, bushy beautiful basil plant in a pot, which was very welcome because my wife and I love fresh basil. We kept it on our front porch. I got to harvest it only twice, once to add some to a tomato-based sauce, and the last time to make a nice batch of pesto.When I harvest the basil I’m very careful to do it in such a way that won’t hurt the the plant, and ensure it will grow back even bushier.

Anyway, the second time when I cut some basil to make pesto I noticed that one small part of the plant, a few stems off to the side, had been stripped of all leaves. I thought that I better do something to protect the plant from critters but I thought I had more time to do so.

When my wife gets home from work maybe an hour later, she says “did you cut down the basil plant?” I said I harvested some for pesto, but the plant was so big and bushy that you’d hardly notice leaves missing after I got done. She said, no the leaves are entirely gone. So I check it out and sure enough it’s nothing but cut or bit-off stems.

I assumed it was groundhogs since we have a problem with them, but googling says they don’t like the smell of basil and tend to avoid it. We also have deer, rabbits, squirrels and plenty of other wildlife in the area, but apparently no critters seem to like basil except insects and slugs, and it definitely wasn’t bugs that caused all that carnage in such a short time window. Rogue basil-loving neighbor? It looks from a distance that the stems were cut, but close up they’re just ragged enough that I think they were chewed.

My current theory, despite what google says, is that a groundhog developed an acquired taste for basil and went to town. There are a few small leaf shoots left near the bottom, so I moved the plant to the back porch, close to a doorwall, hoping that it will be too close to the house for critters to brave getting to it. But even if the plant comes back, it will be awhile before I can get any more basil from it. :disappointed:

I’ve had basil eaten by groundhogs so I guess some didn’t get the message that they don’t like it.

Carefully check the plant for caterpillars. They can quickly eat very impressive amounts of herb leaves.

No, the plant was fine, with whole, unchewed leaves, then a little more than an hour later, it was nothing but stems. Ain’t no caterpillars did that, in that window of time. Had to be groundhogs or some other critter.

Japanese beetles. Any time I’ve grown basil, they show up. I just flick them into a small dish of soapy water.

Edit: reading the rest of your post, it could be rabbits or even birds. I’ve had rabbits destroy my pepper plants before.

We do have a lot of rabbits in the area, though again the general consensus on the internet is that they don’t like basil. But as What_Exit said, some critter clearly didn’t get the message they don’t like it.

It’s been a very dry summer. We’ve been in borderline drought conditions lately, so maybe a big healthy green basil plant was more appealing than it ordinarily would be to a plant-loving critter.

Bunnies aren’t just cute like everybody supposes. They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses. And what’s with all the carrots? What do they need such good eyesight for anyway? Bunnies! Bunnies! It must be bunnies!!

So what you’re saying is that the basil plants are being eaten by an unknown pest-o.

Oh boy, I think you win the bad pun award for the year! :laughing:

I’ve had rabbits, deer, feral pigs eat on every thing I’ve ever planted. We have electric fences around the kitchen patch.
I put garlic in a raised bed. The next morning all the bulbs were gone and there were deer hoof prints in my bed.
Yep. You guessed it:

Italian Deer.

I plant garlic/all bulbs under wire now.

There’s no accounting for taste.

Set your plant on a pedestal.

I also have a ghost pepper plant in a pot outside, and the leaves have been eaten. I thought leaves of plants in the nightshade family were toxic!

Tomato hornworms can consume a surprising amount of foliage from tomatoes and peppers, but I’ve never seen them on basil. Japanese beetles will do a number on basil, but not that quickly. My guess is deer.

I dunno what you’re Googling, but that author’s got it wrong.

This rabbit-oriented site claims they can eat it but don’t like it all that much.

Published on: July 22, 2020, Last Updated: July 25, 2020 by Editorial.

Yes. Rabbits can eat fresh basil leaves and stems . All varieties including sweet (Genovese), lemon, cinnamon, dark opal, anise (Licorice or Persian), Rubin, purple, African blue, spicy, and lettuce leaf basil are safe to your rabbits.

…and even then I call bull$#!+

My dutch belted will practically kill for it. Really!

If I stand within ten yards of her holding a few basil leaves between my lips – well, imagine that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail…

Well, okay. I got better…

But, seriously, I’m betting that, since you say you’ve got a lot of rabbits in the area, one learned you had a bunch on the porch and took a nibble, then it told friends and… :scream:

Keep the plant inside on a windowsill and water it regularly.

And don’t answer scratches at the door on full-moon nights.

No doubt! :astonished:

The basil plant is gradually coming back-- it’s still outside but I moved it next to a doorwall, so not many day creatures are bold enough to come that close to the house, and night creatures don’t seem to bother it.

Nights are getting colder so I’ll eventually have to move it indoors, but I’ve never had much luck keeping basil plants alive indoors over winter.

Hungry enough animals (i.e. deer, but others as well) will eat plants they’d normally ignore.

The rapidity of destruction cited in the OP suggests either deer or a groundhog.