Edible Plants for Turtles and Tortoises in Your Yard

In the wild, turtles and tortoises have unlimited options of what to eat, giving them a varied and diverse diet. In captivity, many keepers stick to what they’re familiar with, seriously limiting the variety of foods their animals get. While those foods may provide a complete diet, finding edible plants for turtles and tortoises in your yard and garden can add enjoyment for both you and your animals. Personally, I have a lot of fun identifying plants and finding out whether they’re edible (for myself or my animals).

things to feed box turtles

When foraging for food, be sure you know if chemicals have been used in an area. Common garden chemicals are usually poisonous. If it’s not your yard or garden, be sure to ask the owner before picking anything, and ask what chemicals they use. If it’s your own yard, there are natural alternatives that you can use for most issues that will maintain an edible and safe yard for your turtles and tortoises.

Our garden has started going crazy. The previous owner had planted a lot of stuff and kinda let it go. While we like the vigorous growth, we don’t necessarily like all of her plant choices, so we’ve been replacing some plants with preferred options, and identifying things as we go.

edible nasturtiums

One of the things we planted for multiple purposes is Nasturtiums. They are edible to a variety of our animals, as well as edible for humans. They should be fed to tortoises in moderation due to their levels of oxalic acid.

succulents turtle food

There are several types of sedum that can be found all over the garden. Thankfully they don’t choke out other plants, because they have spread everywhere. They’re a great option for feeding to tortoises. They were the first to get eaten when I gave mine a handful of different options.

can turtles eat coral bells

We have masses of coral bells in the garden. These are edible, but should be fed in moderation due to the high levels of tannins they contain. They are easily available at nurseries and look nice in the garden.

pansies for turtle food

The pansies are a new addition in our garden this year, taking the place of a large invasive plant that was ripped out in late winter. Pansies are edible to people and turtles and tortoises. The flowers can be added to salads for human consumption, and the turtles and tortoises will eat any part of it. To keep them going all summer, remove the flowers when they start to wilt. The turtles will eat the wilted flowers too.

Edible Plants for Turtles and Tortoises in Your Yard

If you have a yard or garden of any size, you’ve probably had dandelions. They’re a good food for turtles and tortoises, but act as a diuretic, so they should be fed as part of a varied diet. If you have the space, set aside a corner of your garden for edible weeds like dandelions to grow pesticide free.

strawberry plants turtles tortoises

The strawberries aren’t fruiting yet, but in a few weeks, the box turtles will really enjoy the crop of berries. Many tortoises are not able to properly digest fruit, so make sure you know if fruit is appropriate for your tortoise before feeding them berries.

male eastern box turtle

Recently a friend pointed me to The Tortoise Table Plant Database phone app. This app has over 800 plants with pictures and info on each one to help you identify plants. It will tell you if they’re harmful and why, or if they’re edible, or to feed in moderation. It’s free and definitely worth downloading if you’d like to start exploring for edible plants in for turtles and tortoises in your yard.

Our sister site, Bones & Fishes, has a more pictures and info on turtle gardening.

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  1. […] Our sister site, HerpetoBotanical, has more information about foraging for turtle food in your yard and garden. […]

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