- Sep 13, 2014
A lot of oldies but goodies, but there were also a few of these that I didn't realize were good tortoise food. I thought I'd make a post just in case someone like me may discover something they like. I'd really enjoy it if you'd share some of your favs too (especially if they had pics---oo-la-la!).
A Little Background if you're curious...
A few years ago, my family and I began a gardening project to make our whole back yard edible. We've been filling it full of edible flowers, vegetables, and berries. The kids know that all the flowers in the backyard are safe for human consumption, but to stay away from the "pretty poison" flowers in the front yard. We've had some fun adding edible flowers to salads, soups, and candies. The back yard is starting to look really great and friends have enjoyed our new hobby when they come over for barbeques etc.
My son is cutting some newly planted peppermint for tea
Then our beloved Mavis arrived...
Our young sulcata stumbled into our lives after we already began this edible backyard project and it has been great fun watching her enjoy the fruits of our labors.
She found the carrot tops ...and the pumpkin patch
She often has access to our whole yard, so I've been busily researching to make sure that everything we are growing is safe for our tortoise. I thought I'd pass along the plants I've investigated so far, just in case I can add anything to your own tortoise garden list, and I'm hoping you'll return the favor and give suggestions for mine
(Bear in mind that these are Annuals as well as Colder Climate Perennials. I am in Perennial Zone 4.)
About My Plant List:I gathered info by hopping around the internet, relied on the Tortoise Table for less familiar plants, and asked Forum Members for help. Some of the photos are mine, others were from "google images."
I'm listing some pretty flowers that are safe to be fed REGULARLY (in other words: plentiful feedings often as part of a varied diet) and in MODERATION (smaller feedings to be added to your rotation of tortoise food).
-All parts of the plants listed are tortoise edible unless noted otherwise.
" * "-also known to be edible for human consumption (included just for fun!)
-*Snap Dragons Antirrhinum: SAFE to feed tortoise REGULARLY
Annual, re-seeds easily, variety of colors and different heights available.
My tortoise enjoys these and they are great for Northern gardeners because they can survive a few early snow storms.
-Begonias: there are two common begonias: Tuberous and Wax
*Tuberous: The tortoise table says that the leaves are to be fed "SPARINGLY" because the leaves are high in oxalic acid. A treat now and then sounds fine. Our very own Lochroma has reassured me that these have no known toxicity.
*WAX Begonias: are cute little Annual shade flowers that are totally SAFE & can be fed REGULARLY as part of a varied diet. My tortoise has nibbled on them often.
-African Violet: considered totally SAFE if fed REGULARLY as part of varied diet. This houseplant makes a good safe indoor enclosure plant.
-Astilbe: Pretty PERENNIAL shade/part sun flowers that come in a variety of colors (one of my FAVORITE flowers!) SAFE to feed REGULARLY as part of a varied diet. I love these and am always looking for an excuse for more.
-*Hollyhocks (Alcea): Short-lived PERENNIAL (sometimes BIENNAL). TALL beautiful flower stalks that come in many different colors. (My sulcata LOVES THEM) These reseed easily and produce many seeds. I've grown the seeds indoors to feed my sulcata this winter as small seedlings. The leaves can survive a lot of cold temperatures and provide a long season food source even after the blooms are done. SAFE to feed REGULARLY as part of varied diet.
-*Lavender: PERENNIAL flowering herb. Feed in MODERATION. My tortoise isn't a fan of these, but I AM, so it's nice to know no harm done if she chooses to nibble. (PM me if you want to know how to make lavender whipped cream )
-*Hyssop (I have Coronado hyssop): Perennial Flower with cullinary uses. Feed in MODERATION. My variety is a pretty Orange with pink tones. My plants were new last year, so I didn't offer them up as a food source yet. I'm not sure my tortoise would go for them, because the blooms smell a little like both Root beer and black licorice. It's nice to know these are safe if she decides she likes them.
-*Pansies/Violas: SAFE as REGULAR feeding. Annual that tolerates VERY cold temperatures. Another great one for cold short-season gardens like mine. These seeds grow really slowly for such a small annual. I recommend starting them in the winter as early as you're able. My Sulcata likes the leaves just as much as she likes the flowers.
-*Nasturtiums- Brightly colored Annual that often blooms in shades of orange and red. Feed in MODERATION as it contains some oxalic acid. Contains: vitamin c and iron and also has properties that fight cardiovascular disease and cancer. These bright flowers make a big impact if planted in clusters and continually bloom all season.
---Get it!?! Get it!? <sigh>Alright...
-*Petunia: Low growing Annual in a multitude of colors and designs. (@Jacqui just posted some beautiful photos in the Garden chat! Maybe she'd show them off here too...wink..wink)There are both plant and trailing varieties available. Can be fed REGULARLY or in Moderation depending on the source. I found no evidence of toxicity. I have seen common flower nurseries at Grocery and Hardware stores sell these with "Organic" labels. -I'll post if I see them again this year, otherwise I'll grow them from seed.
-*Zinnia: Annual. I often see this in purple, but believe it is available in other colors too. SAFE to feed REGULARLY. They don't get very bushy when I grow them from seed in my short growing season. If you plant them by themselves, they look like a single flower growing. I recommend planting these in clusters.
-*Daylillies: PERENNIAL with long bloom time. Comes in variety of heights and colors. I talked with a few members about this in the Garden Chat thread who said their tortoises have eaten these whole with no problems. The tortoise table says: Flowers are safe in Moderation, Leaves occasional nibbles, DO NOT FEED ROOTS--roots may be toxic. Other members have had no problems with these. I'll just make sure my sulcata doesn't dig them up.
-Butterfly bush (Buddleia): Pretty PERENNIAL Hardy colorful Shrub. Commonly found in purple, but there are starting to be other pretty colors available, including one with multicolor blossoms. Blooms are similar to lilacs but this blooms in Summer and Autumn. Attracts butterflies. Feed in MODERATION as part of varied diet. ( I was really surprised this could be tortoise food!) In my cold climate, this shrub dies to the ground in the winter, but grows back to a large size quickly after a Spring pruning.
-*Lilacs: Large PERENNIAL Shrubs that bloom in Spring. Blooms usually in shades of light lavender, purple, and white. SAFE to feed REGULARLY. I haven't tried feeding the blossoms to my sulcata yet. Since this is edible and people will even "candy" the blossoms. I was curious and tasted them--YUCK! They are SOUR and taste more like a bitter lemon than their sweet smell. I can't imagine my tortoise will enjoy the flowers however, she has eaten the leaves when I've torn them up in small pieces and mixed in her food.
(Austrian Copper rose)
-*Roses: Feed in MODERATION as long as organically grown.
-*Bee Balm (monarda didyma): PERENNIAL herbaceous flower. Gets somewhat tall and comes in varieties of pink, red, and purple colors. Feed in MODERATION. These have a really strong taste and are often used in making teas. My Sulcata snags a bite now and again, but I don't think she's a huge fan.
-Coreopsis: PERRENIAL that blooms in summer. Petals come in variety of designs often seen in yellow, orange, red, and white colors. SAFE to feed REGULARLY as part of varied diet.
Trying out for the first time this year:
-*Rose of Sharon: Blooming PERENNIAL shrub. SAFE to feed REGULARLY. I just got these seeds from a forum member I've learned that this plant has been known to lower blood pressure in mammals, contains vitamin c, and antioxidants.
-*Chicory (other names:Italian Dandelion, blue dandelion): Feed in MODERATION. These begin as ANNUAL cool weather leafy lettuce-type greens. In summer, they bolt stems and can grow quite tall with blue/lavender flowers. I've heard the early lettuce greens can be bitter, but it becomes mild once it has bolted.
I'm currently growing these from seeds. I'm trying out a few of these, because they get big and I may want to add it to my edible flower collection in the back yard. It is said to aid in calcium absorption, so I thought it would be a fun one to try out.
-Sea Holly: SAFE to feed REGULARLY as part of varied diet, but these are poky, so be careful. I am currently growing a variety from seed called "BLUE HOBBIT" ---yup, the only reason why I'm growing this is because it's called "Hobbit" and I enjoy being a nerd Blue Hobbit Sea Holly is a PERENNIAL dwarf variety and has no known toxins.
-Phlox: Safe to feed in MODERATION. This fun PERENNIAL comes in a variety of colors and designs. I have peppermint twist. It is full sun (height 16") and usually blooms mid-late summer.
I also think it would be really cool to have fun-looking pots overflowing with WEEDS placed among my other pretty flower pots on my patio. (They'd look neat and I can bring them in and put them under grow lights during the winter!)
I'm growing the following weeds from seed and will see how they do in pots:
-marsh mallow (I've heard from another forum member that this grows really slowly from seed, so we'll see how it goes)
I also intend to pot some of the strawberries I thin out this year, so that I can bring the plants inside for leafy winter tortoise food also.
I'm interested in growing these in the near future:
-Perrennial Lavetera/Tree Mallow: SAFE to feed REGULARLY. I've seen this shrub in shades of pink and light lavender. There are perennial and annual varieties available.
-African Hibiscus: I've learned from a forum member that this is an Annual Shrub that seeds so dependably it can be re-grown each year. This is apparently much loved by tortoises.
(Can you believe I don't have any hibiscus whatsoever!? Sorry sweet, tortoise! I'll hook you up!)
-Abutilon: I discovered this flower on @manetteaplin 's thread and am eager to try it out... http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/annual-flowers.110662/
-*Evening Primrose: PERENNIAL that is SAFE to feed REGULARLY as part of a varied diet. Blooms are often yellow, but there are some pink varieties available. Tortoises are said to love these flowers that bloom for a short time in June/July. Full sun.
I'm still researching the rest of my plants and will be posting how everything here grows in the off-topic garden chat (http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/garden-chat-photos-for-torts-and-people.104546/) as well as my vegetables and fruit this summer.